Installing Etherpad

In this post I’m gonna explain how to install and configure Etherpad on your server (for production).

We’re going to: install NodeJS, install Etherpad, setup subdomain, setup HTTPS, setup nginx, create a service file for Etherpad, create a database for Etherpad, change the default Etherpad theme and install new plugins. All of this in less than half an hour…

Note, you need to have a server running nginx and a domain name to follow this guide. If you want to secure your server, you can read this post.

Step 1: Installing dependencies

You need to install node.js (minimum v10.17). To install the latest stable version though, you can do this:

First, go on the nodejs website here and copy the link to the LTS version.

Now in your terminal you can do the following:

cd /usr/local/                          # Going into the directory to download
wget <paste your url here>              # Downloading
tar xvf node*.tar.*                     # Extract the content
mv node-*/ node/                        # Rename the directory
ln -s /usr/local/node/bin/* /usr/bin    # Link all binaries into the /usr/bin directory
rm *.tar.*                              # Remove the downloaded archive for cleaning

Step 2: Creating an “etherpad” user

We now need to create a specific user for etherpad

useradd -s /usr/bin/bash -m etherpad
passwd etherpad

Step 3: Downloading Etherpad

Now that we have all the ingredients to make Etherpad, we can now download the source code of Etherpad.

First, we will download the source code:

cd /var/www        # Or where ever you want to store Etherpad's files
git clone --branch master https://github.com/ether/etherpad-lite.git # Download Etherpad

Then you need to asign the downloaded source code to the user etherpad for security: (then login as etherpad and enter the directory)

chown etherpad:etherpad -R etherpad-lite/   # Assign yourself the right permissions
su - etherpad                               # Login as etherpad
cd /var/www/etherpad-lite/                  # Go back into the directory

You can now test if everything worked properly by running:

./src/bin/run.sh    # Run the start script
exit                # Exit the etherpad user

Step 4: Create a new service file

Open a new service file:

nano /etc/systemd/system/etherpad.service

And paste the following content:

[Unit]
Description=Etherpad
After=network.target network-online.target

[Service]
Type=simple
User=etherpad
Group=etherpad
Restart=always
RestartSec=1
ExecStart=/var/www/etherpad-lite/src/bin/run.sh

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target

You can now start etherpad:

sudo systemctl start etherpad

Step 5: Create an HTTPS subdomain name

First, go on your DNS Zone and create 2 new entries for your subdomain, for instance:

Domain Type IP
pad.example.com A 12.45.67.44
pad.example.com AAAA 2a02:a03f:a1de:4600:467a:291d:a613:c637

Then certify the domain name:

sudo systemctl stop nginx
certbot certonly --standalone -d pad.example.com

Step 6: Create a reverse proxy

Open a new nginx configuration file

nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/etherpad.conf

And paste the following content: (Don’t forget to replace pad.example.com by your real domain.

server {
    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;

    server_name pad.example.com;

    return 301 https://pad.example.com$request_uri;
}

server {
    listen 443 ssl http2;
    listen [::]:443 ssl http2;

    location / {
        proxy_pass http://127.0.0.1:9001;

        proxy_set_header Host $host;
        proxy_set_header Connection       $http_connection;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For  $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
        proxy_set_header X-Scheme         $scheme;
        proxy_buffering                   off;
    }

    include /etc/nginx/snippets/letsencrypt.conf;

    server_name pad.example.com;

    ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/pad.example.com/fullchain.pem;
    ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/pad.example.com/privkey.pem;
    ssl_trusted_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/pad.example.com/fullchain.pem;

    access_log /var/log/nginx/pad.example.com.access.log;
    error_log /var/log/nginx/pad.example.com.error.log;
}

Then we can enable our configuration and restart nginx

ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/etherpad.conf /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/
systemctl restart nginx

Etherpad is now available on your domain.

Step 7: Change the theme (optional)

Go into the settings file.

nano /var/www/etherpad-lite/settings.json

Then search for “super-light” and edit the values for: the background, the editor and the toolbar.

Then you can restart etherpad…

systemctl restart etherpad

First let’s get into the folder as “etherpad” user.

su - etherpad
cd /var/www/etherpad-lite/

Then run npm install to install your plugins:

npm install ep_headings2 ep_font_color ep_comments_page ep_align ep_embedded_hyperlinks2 ep_markdown

Restart etherpad to apply the changes

exit
systemctl restart etherpad

Step 9: Secure the installation

We can now create a mysql database to replace the already existing database.

First let’s create the database:

mysql
CREATE USER 'etherpaduser'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY '<your password>';
CREATE DATABASE etherpad_lite_db;
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON etherpad_lite_db.* TO 'etherpaduser'@'localhost';
FLUSH PRIVILEGES;
EXIT;

Now let’s go into the settings.json file

nano /var/www/etherpad-lite/settings.json

Now let’s search in the document for “mysql” and comment the “dirtyDB”, then uncomment and edit “mysql”.

Finally you can restart etherpad

systemctl restart etherpad

Conclusion

You now have a working setup of Etherpad on your server, including:

Note: I don’t use Etherpad anymore. Mostly because It doesn’t support Markdown properly and is very bloated. I now use Git, Markdown and Gitea instead.