Configuring Papers for Mac in Institutions

Papers for Mac 3.4.4 (currently in beta) introduces some new options for configuring Papers for Mac, which may be helpful in managed environments, such as labs, libraries or workplaces.

These options are set using the OS X user defaults system. You should be familiar with the defaults command line tool, or a tool such as Profile Manager for configuring your devices. You should also configure your devices in such a way that your users cannot change these settings themselves.

The Papers 3 for Mac defaults domain is com.mekentosj.papers3

Choosing Safe Locations for Papers Libraries

Your institution may have polices defining where users can store their data safely. For instance, they may be limited to storing their files on a network drive, or other removable volume. You can specify a list of locations where Papers users are allowed to place their libraries. The allowed_library_paths default accepts an array of full paths to locations on the filesystem where users can place their libraries. For example, to only allow Papers libraries to be placed in the folders /Volumes/Work/ and /Users/Student/Home/, you would use the following command:

defaults write com.mekentosj.papers3 allowed_library_paths -array "/Volumes/Work/" "/Users/Student/Home/"

Paths must be absolute, but can be made relative to the user's home directory with ~. Papers will also allow users to create libraries in subfolders of the specified paths.

If this default is present when a new library is being created, Papers for Mac will only suggest these folders for Papers Libraries. If a user tries to manually create a new Papers library outside of these locations, they'll see an error similar to this:

A screenshot of the alert users see if they try to save their Papers Libraries outside of their allowed folders

Requiring Users to Enable Syncing

Papers for Mac maintains two copies of the user's library. The user-visible "shared" library in a folder of the user's choosing, and a second "local" library found in the user's Application Support folder. The local library is always up to date with the user's changes, whereas the shared library is only updated periodically. If your user's Application Support folders are not persisted between launches, your users may find that recent changes to their library aren't present when they log back in again (as the shared library was erased before the local library could be updated with its changes).

This is also useful if your users store their Papers libraries on removable volumes shared between multiple computers, and the Application Support folder is not maintained per user.

You can force the local copy of the user's Papers library to always be up to date by setting the force_sync property to true:

defaults write com.mekentosj.papers3 force_sync -bool TRUE

If this property is set, users will not be able to disable syncing in Papers for Mac's preferences:

A screenshot showing the Papers for Mac Sync Preferences screen, when syncing has been enabled by an administrator.

Allowing Users to Contact an Administrator

When a user is presented with an error message due to one of these institutional configuration options, it can be helpful to allow a user to get in touch with an administrator at your institution for assistance. By setting the default administrator_contact_url to a valid URL, a "Contact Administrator" button will be added to any error messages created by these policies. For example:

  • You could use a link to a support page explaining the policies:
defaults write com.mekentosj.papers3 administrator_contact_url "https://support.institution.example/help/papers3"
  • You could use a link to an email address to allow a user to contact you directly (note the mailto: at the start of the URL. This is required.):
defaults write com.mekentosj.papers3 administrator_contact_url "mailto:papers3@support.institution.example"