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% Etherpad: Private Network Edition Users Guide % Drafted: 7/17/09 %


The Private Network Edition (PNE) lets you run EtherPad on your servers inside your organization's firewall for the highest level of security and data privacy. Your organization retains full control over all information on pads, and have full control over the configuration.

Installation of the Private Network Edition of Etherpad is intended to be performed by a qualified system administrator. If this is not an option, we highly recommend that you consider the Professional Edition of Etherpad instead.

System Requirements

Etherpad Private Network Edition requires Java Standard Edition Version 6 (JavaSE 6). This means EtherPad will run on almost any platform out there! We officially support the following operating systems:

Operating System Versions Supported

Mac OS X Mac OS 10.5.4 and later[^1]
Windows Windows 2000, XP, and Vista
Linux Red Hat 2.1+, Suse Linux 8+, Ubuntu 8+, etc. Solaris Solaris 8+

Etherpad comes with it's own installation of a database engine (named "Derby"), but if you plan to have more than 100 simultaneous users, you will need to configure Etherpad to connect to a SQL database. If you plan to use an external MySQL database, you will need to use a MySQL server version 4.1 or later.

[^1]: J2SE 6.0 on Mac OS X 10.5 requires a 64-bit intel processor.


To install Java on any of the supported platforms, go to

In order to import and export Etherpad documents, you will also need to install OpenOffice. Once installed, you will need to configure EtherPad to use OpenOffice.

About this Guide

EtherPad installation and configuration varies slightly depending on the platform. If you are not familiar with using the command line, we highly reccommend using Etherpad Pro instead.



Start EtherPad by running the following command in the shell.

    java -Xmx512M -cp etherpad-pne-1.1.3.jar com.etherpad.main \
                --listen=8080 --listenSecure=8443

If all goes well, EtherPad will be serving on port 8080 (https on port 8443). Note that if you want to run on the normal ports (80 and 443), then you will have to run this command as the root user (on unix systems) or as an Administrator (on Windows).

The usual way to shutdown the server is to send it the TERM signal (Control-C from the shell). The server is designed so that if the process is restarted quickly (within a few seconds), clients will reconnect without interrupting users' typing.


There are a number of parameters that can be configured. A full list of server options is available at the end of this document. The following sections describe common configuration options in detail.

A given parameter foo can be given the value bar in two equivalent ways.

  1. By passing --foo=bar on the command-line.
  2. By adding the line "foo = bar" to a configuration file, and passing --configFile=[path-to-file] on the command line.

Port Setup

When running Etherpad on a host already running a web-server, you will need to configure it to use a different port. This is controlled by two separate parameters: listen, and listenSecure, which corrispond to the HTTP and HTTPS ports. When accessing an Etherpad server running on an HTTP port other than the default port of 80, you will need to append ':' followed by the port number to the end of the host name: for example, if you are running Etherpad on, on the HTTP port 8080, you will access etherpad in the browser at the following url: .

If you attempting to set up etherpad on a server configured with vhosts, you can prepend the hostname, followed by a colon (:) to the --listen and --listenSecure parameters: for example .

Wild-card Sub-domains

NOTE: We strongly recommend you do this step.

For a significantly more responsive editing experience, you should modify the DNS record for your server so that all "wildcard" subdomains point to the same IP address as the main domain.

For example, if your are hosting it internally on, then make sure * points to the same IP address as

If you have a systems administrator, then your best bet is to politely ask him or her to perform this step for you. If you run your own DNS servers, the configuration will vary based on which DNS server you have.

Once you perform this update to the DNS records, you can run the server with the --transportUseWildcardSubdomains=true option. For example:

    java -Xmx512M -cp etherpad-pne-1.1.3.jar com.etherpad.main \

Please feel free to contact us at if you encounter difficulty with this step.

The reason for this step is that some web browsers, specifically some versions of Internet Explorer, impose very low connection limits on the client that interfere with EtherPad's real-time experience. These connection limits, which exist for historical reasons, are commonly worked around by real-time web apps such as EtherPad by using multiple host names that resolve to the same server.

Enable File Conversion

EtherPad uses OpenOffice to convert documents to and from the Microsoft Word, PDF, and OpenDocument formats. To enable import and export of these formats, you must download the OpenOffice application and install it on the same machine that runs your EtherPad server. EtherPad will automatically run OpenOffice with the necessary options. Use the etherpad.soffice option to tell EtherPad where to find OpenOffice's soffice command. For example:

    java -Xmx512M -cp etherpad-pn-1.1.3.jar com.etherpad.main \

If you're using Linux, keep in mind that many distributions contain OpenOffice 2, which doesn't support the new Microsoft docx format. To import docx files, you'll need OpenOffice 3.

In Linux, OpenOffice requires an X server to run. If your server doesn't have X installed, you may be able to avoid installing Gnome or KDE by using a virtual X server like xvfb. To use xvfb with OpenOffice and EtherPad, set '--etherpad.soffice=xvfb-run /usr/bin/soffice' (quotes necessary to keep the space character in the command).

Alternative Database Engines

When you run EtherPad without specifying a database, it uses a bult-in database engine called "Derby". This should be fine for small numbers of users (fewer than 100), but for better server performance and data management you may wish to connect EtherPad to a MySQL 5 database. To do this, set the configuration variable etherpad.SQL_JDBC_URL and the database username/password. For example:

    java -Xmx512M \
      -cp ./etherpad-pne-1.1.3.jar:mysql-connector-java-5.1.7-bin.jar com.etherpad.main \
      --etherpad.SQL_JDBC_DRIVER=com.mysql.jdbc.Driver \
      --etherpad.SQL_JDBC_URL=jdbc:mysql://localhost:3306/etherpad \
      --etherpad.SQL_USERNAME=etherpad \

Note that you will have to download MySQL Connector/J and include it in your classpath, as indicated above.

You will have to configure a MySQL database with the name specified in the URL to accept connections from the username/password you provide. This database will be used for all persistent data storage such as pad text, history, and metadata.

There is currently no way to move data between Derby and MySQL.

Email Configuration

Etherpad can send invite emails to other pads. To configure the email account these invites are sent from, you can pass in the SMTP server, username and password used by the server using the smtpServer, smtpUser, and smtpPass configuration options, respectively. Note that if your SMTP server does not require authentication, you may leave the smtpUser and smtpPass parameters unset.

Parameter Description

smtpServer Location of SMTP server for sending email invitations to pads. smtpUser (Optional) SMTP username smtpPass (Optional) SMTP password

LDAP Integration

LDAP Integration

Etherpad now allows you to specify an external directory server for running user queries. To configure etherpad to authenticate against an existing LDAP server, set etherpad.useLdapConfiguration to a file containing the ldap configuration file. This configuration file should look be a valid JSON dictionary:

    "url"           : "ldap://localhost:10389",
    "principal"     : "uid=admin,ou=system", 
    "password"      : "secret", 
    "rootPath"      : "ou=users,ou=system", 
    "userClass"     : "person", 
    "nameAttribute" : "displayname", 
    "ldapSuffix"    : "@ldap" 

Note that this example file should work out of the box for a default configuration of Apache Directory Server.

Here is a description of each of the configuration options:

Parameter Description

url An ldap:// url pointing to the server-name and port number of the ldap server to connect to.

principle The full path to the UID used to connect to the LDAP server. This is used to check if a given user exists on the system.

password Password to the principle account

rootPath A path to the DN entry parent to all user accounts.

userClass The objectClass common to all user accounts -- only user accounts with this objectClass will be allowed to authenticate.

nameAttribute Attribute of a user account that specifies the full name of the user.

ldapSuffix Due to the fact that all user accounts in etherpad are emails, a suffix is applied to each ldap username to turn it into an email address. Users will be required to type in this ldap suffix when logging in. For example, if a user 'alice' with an ldap account uid=alice wants to log in, and ldapSuffix is '@ldap', she would log in with the email 'alice@ldap'. This is convenient if ldap user accounts always correspond to an email account on an organizations network: if Alice is an employee at '', with email address '', configure the ldapSuffix to '', and she will

be able to log in with her usual email account.

Single-Sign-On Support

Etherpad Private Network Edition can be configured to integrate with your organization's Single-Sign-On (SSO) configuration: however, it requires expert knowledge of your organization's SSO mechanism.

Note: Do not attempt to configure this option without an expert knowledge of your organization's authentication system, as well as expert knowledge in a scripting language such as python or perl.

To configure SSO authentication, ensure that etherpad is running in a subdomain under an already existing SSO domain, so that the authentication cookie is shared (so if you're SSO cookie is sent to all subdomains of, make sure etherpad is being accessed from one of those subdomains). Next you will need to write a small script that checks the validitity of any of these cookies.

This script will be passed in a JSON object of each cookie sent from the browser each time a user attempts to access Etherpad. If these cookies represent a valid user session, and that user is allowed access to Etherpad, the script is expected to write a JSON object back to stdout with identity information about the user. Specifically, the following keys are expected:

JSON Object Key Default Value Description

email (required) Email address for the authenticated user. This key must exist in the json object in order for the user to be authenticated.

fullname "unnamed" The full name of the authenticating user.

password "" A blank password will only allow the user to

log in via the SSO script.

Once your script is prepared, set the etherpad.SSOScript configuration option to the location of your script, and make sure it has executable permissions (chmod +x script on a unix system).

Other Configuration Options

If you have a license key from a previous installation of Etherpad, you may use the etherpad.licenseKey option to point to the location of the licenseKey. This option defaults to file:./data/license.key.

If you believe you have found a bug in your installation of Etherpad, it may be benefitial to us if you included a verbose log as part of your bug report. To enable verbose logging, set the verbose option to true.

Quick Reference

A list of all the server configuration options. Default values, if they exist, are in (italics)

listen : (80) : Main port to listen for HTTP requests listenSecure : (443) : Main port to listen for HTTPS requests transportUseWildcardSubdomains : (false) : Set to true to enable much faster edit syncs. This requires configuring your DNS server as described above. sslKeyStore : (built-in snakeoil cert) : Path on disk to SSL keystore for HTTPS credentials. See the Java KeyTool Documentation. sslKeyPassword : (Optional) Password to the SSL certs in the keystore. etherpad.soffice : Command to run OpenOffice for Microsoft Word, PDF, and OpenDocument file conversion. etherpad.SQL_JDBC_DRIVER : (org.apache.derby.jdbc.EmbeddedDriver) : Java SQL Driver Class etherpad.SQL_JDBC_URL : (jdbc:derby:etherpad;create=true) : Host, port, and database name. etherpad.SQL_USERNAME : SQL Username (for MySQL) etherpad.SQL_PASSWORD : SQL Password (for MySQL) smtpServer : (localhost:25) : Location of SMTP server for sending email invitations to pads. smtpUser : (Optional) Some SMTP servers require a username. smtpPass : (Optional) Some SMTP servers require a password. etherpad.adminPass : Password to access admin pages. configFile : Properties file for storing configuration parameters. etherpad.licenseKey : (file:./data/license.key) : License key string (or file) that contains the license key. verbose : (false) : Set to true to enable verbose logging to the console.

Using Etherpad Private Network Edition

Usage of Etherpad on a day-to-day basis is generally straight forward. The following sections will help you get acquainted with some of the more advanced features of Etherpad PNE.


Once you have configured etherpad using all the applicable command-line flags, hit return to run etherpad on the command line. In the future we reccommend storing all parameters in the configFile option, and many of our users prefer to wrap the whole startup process with a shell/batch script.


Administration of PNE is done through the Admin section, available to Admin users upon logging in. Each section allows configuration of various portions of etherpad:

Server Dashboard

From here one can view usage statistics for etherpad.

Manage License

If you need to view or edit your EtherPad license, use this section.

Manage Accounts

From here you can manage the current accounts on your system. To create a new account, click on the "Create new account" link. To grant Admin access to other users, or to change their email and visible name, use the "Manange" link next to each name.

Recover Pad Text

This section allows you to recover the text of a pad that you accidentally deleted.

Application Configuration

Using this section you can set the displayed server name, and default pad text. If you need to restrict users to use only secure connections, you may enable that in this pane as well.

Using Etherpad


Share your pad with others using the Share Link at the top right of the pad page. Click the arrow next to "or send an email invitation..." to send an email invitation.

Pad Options

Configure a number of page-wide options from here. Changing settings here will affect everyone's view of the pad page.

Import / Export

Import rich-text format documents (from word, pdfs, etc) into Etherpad, and export them back.

Saved Revisions

Use the save icon, or "Save Now" from the Saved revisions tab to create a new saved revision of the pad. These will keep a snapshot of the pad around forever.


Version Numbering

EtherPad PNE versions contain three parts: the major number, the minor number, and the patch number. The format is: {major}.{minor}.{patch}.

Upgrades within the same major and minor version can be performed at any time. For example, moving between 1.2.3 and 1.2.5 is not a problem.

Upgrades within the same major version number may be performed, but minor version number upgrades must be performed consecutively. For example, you can upgrade from 1.1.* to 1.2., but in order to upgrade from 1.2. to 1.4., you must first upgrade 1.2. to 1.3., and then 1.3. to 1.4.*.

Performing the Upgrade

To perform an upgrade, follow these steps:

  1. Shut down the running EtherPad PNE server by sending it the TERM signal (Control-C in the shell).
  2. Important: Make a backup of the database! If you've configured MySQL you may wish to use a tool such as mysqldump. If you're using the default Derby database, make a backup of the data/derbydb directory.
  3. Replace the old jar (etherpad-pne-OLD.jar) with the new jar (etherpad-pne-NEW.jar), where OLD is the old version number and NEW is the new version number.
  4. Start the server back up with the same configuration parameters as before.

Database migration will be performed automatically on start-up. Once the database has been migrated to accommodate a new version of the software, you can no longer run an earlier version of the software on the same database.

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