Installing Etherpad

This chapter will look at some of the issues surrounding installing Etherpad.

What are the pros and cons of installing your own installation of Etherpad? 

Some of the questions you may want to ask yourself are: 

  • Is anonymity a high concern for your project?
  • Is there an already existing service running that I can trust?
  • What are the general privacy limitations of using an online services for sensitive information? 

How to Install Etherpad

These notes are adapted from the installation notes here. 1 

GNU/Linux and other UNIX-like systems

You'll need gzip, git, curl, libssl develop libraries, python and gcc.
For Debian/Ubuntu:

apt-get install gzip git-core curl python libssl-dev pkg-config build-essential

Additionally, you'll need node.js installed, Ideally the latest stable version, be careful of installing nodejs from apt.

As any user (we recommend creating a separate user called etherpad-lite):

Move to a folder where you want to install Etherpad Lite. Clone the git repository
git clone git://

Change into the new directory containing the cloned source code

cd etherpad-lite



Now open in your browser.

You can update to the latest version with

git pull origin 

The next time you start Etherpad -


will update the dependencies.  You can initially modify the settings in settings.json. Once you have access to your /admin section settings can be modified through the web browser.  You should use a dedicated database such as "mysql", if you are planning on using etherpad-in a production environment.

Installing Abiword

You should install Abiword if you want to  importing and exporting word processing documents

This can be handy for many users. If you don't install it then you get a message prompting you to do so when you click on the Import / Export button.

Follow these instructions to install Abiword on your server.

When you have installed abiword you can configure Etherpad to use it by altering the file settings.json in a text editor.  Find the line that says:

"abiword" : null,

and change it to:

"abiword" : "/usr/bin/abiword",

Password Protecting Etherpad/Installing Reverse Proxy

For better security and stability it is good practice to use a webserver as a reverse proxy for Ethepad. 2 

This will allow you password protect your installation and to set the default connection to SSL / HTTPS.  How this is set up will depend on what webserver you are running. If you are not familiar with these concepts then you will need to do research or ask a specialist to help you. There is more help on the Etherpad wiki on how to do it for Apache, ngnix and other webserver on the wiki pages of the project.  3

This will also allow you to have nice URLs for your pad, like "". 

Integrating Etherpad with other platforms

You may be in a position where it is an advantage to integrate Etherpad with other online web application like WordPress or Moodle.  As we mentioned in the introduction to this guide, Etherpad is very popular with educators. There is a plug in to be able to include Etherpad in Moodle . 4

It is possible to restrict access to pads with existing usernames and passwords. Integration means users can log in using their existing usernames and this information can be used to create author information.


Contribute to Etherpad

Etherpad is an open source project. That means that everything, from this website to the core of the application itself, has been contributed by passionate, helpful individuals (such as yourself) who liked what they saw and wanted to make something even better. So if you like what you see, and want to make something even better, we'd like to see your contributions. It doesn't matter how familiar you are with real-time applications, or whether you know how to write programs for Node.js. There are plenty of ways to be helpful! Just ask!

One of the first things you should do is actually use Etherpad, and get to know it, read about it, be evangelical about it, and engage with the wider community. Learn how to write plugins or translate the user interface to your mother tongue. Be creative!

Helpful resources

The Etherpad wiki is a helpful resource for Tutorials and How-to's. 5 

If you're new to node.js, which Etherpad is built on have a look at with Ryan Dahl's Introduction to Node.js. 6 


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