In my recent deep review of the QuirkLogic Papyr E-Ink tablet, I purposefully focused on the device’s stock settings. Since I promised the folks at QuirkLogic that I would provide them with extensive critical feedback, I needed to keep my feedback focused on the device exactly as they configured it.
Yet, each of us who owns a QuirkLogic Papyr faces an impending doom as QuirkLogic’s announced March 1, 2023 closing date for its proprietary, cloud-based collaborative platform called InkWorks is almost here. I hope that this short tutorial will come as a saving grace for at least one fellow Papyr owner.
After reading the announcement from QuirkLogic that InkWorks would be taken offline, and, therefore, that a large amount of my Papyr’s functionality would be eliminated overnight, I went on a quest to find a viable solution. I turned to the dpt-tools GitHub repository, wherein the world’s leading Sony Digital Paper, and, therefore, Fujitsu Quaderno A4 (gen. 1), mooInk Pro A4 (gen. 1), and, indeed, Papyr tinkerers are to be found (since, as I repeated a few times in my full-length review, all of those devices are actually the exact same, simply running different software), asking if there might be a reasonable way for me to re-flash the Papyr with Sony’s or Fujitsu’s respective operating system. I wrote an email to the head of that repository to ask for his assistance directly. I wrote multiple emails to the QuirkLogic team and tried calling their office to ask for help from of them. I asked for assistance in the official Discord server of My Deep Guide, the Youtube channel and services of the well-established E-Ink reviewer Vojislav Dimitrijevic. Nobody responded with any ideas. If someone reading this blog post should have any better option(s) for extending the Papyr’s useful life than what I outline here, please leave a comment below.
In the face of collective silence, I started thinking: Surely, there must be a reason why full Google Chrome is installed rather than any more sensible Web browser for this device, and there must be a reason why Google Drive is one of the only two options (along with Dropbox) for it to sync files. Is this simply a heavily modified version of Google’s Android? After all, the device at least appeared, albeit as completely inaccessible, when I ran the Android Debug Bridge (adb) inside my terminal emulator in (Manjaro) GNU/Linux.
Without any other ideas, I opened Google Chrome to try downloading F-Droid, the free and open source Android application that is itself a catalogue of free and open source applications for Android. After the download, I was presented with an option to click “Install.” One week later, without needing to do any rooting or hacking whatsoever, I have a device that is considerably more useful than it ever was with QuirkLogic’s official software.
Simplest F-Droid Setup Tutorial
DISCLAIMER: You choose to modify your own device at your own risk. I take no responsibility for any problems that might arise. I do not recommend modifying anything past the point of being able to reset the Papyr to factory settings by holding the Reset button and/or selecting the “Reset” option inside QuirkLogic’s Settings menu, nor (of course) am I able to suggest that any attempted reset at any stage in your attempted modifications is certain to be successful.
- Open Google Chrome.
- Navigate to f-droid.org.
- Download F-Droid. Since Chrome is prone to crashing at this stage, you might need to power down the Papyr completely, turn it on again, and launch Chrome (and only Chrome) freshly before going straight to f-droid.org. Eventually, the download will work. (I am thankful for the feedback of someone who followed this tutorial before I added this notice and had to resort to several full reboots in order to get the download to work correctly.) Do the same if anything should fail during any of the opening steps of this tutorial.
- Install F-Droid.
- Immediately after installation finishes, without closing anything, launch F-Droid by clicking “Open.”
- Once F-Droid has finished updating its own repository, the first two things that you will need to install on your device are (1) a new application launcher and (2) a way to change the Papyr’s home button’s behavior so that it launches the new application launcher. The QuirkLogic Launcher (titled “QL Launcher,” if I remember correctly — I uninstalled it entirely a few days ago) does not work with any custom applications. I tried several launchers, including the famous ReLaunchX (which is specifically designed for E-Ink tablets — more on this in the next section), but the application launcher available on F-Droid that works the best overall on the Papyr is the radically simple but entirely functional Text Launcher.
Download and install Text Launcher (here on F-Droid), and then install Key Mapper (here on F-Droid).
- Shutdown the device.
- Turn on the device. You will be greeted with the option to use either the QuirkLogic Launcher or the Text Launcher, as well as whether or not you wish to keep that setting permanent. Choose the Text Launcher, and keep that setting permanent. You should be greeted with a plain list of the applications that are currently installed on the device.
- Tap “Key Mapper” to launch the Key Mapper application. Tap the “+” at the bottom of the screen to create a new action. Tap “Record trigger,” and tap the Home button to record that as the trigger. Tap “add action” to add an action to it, and choose “Open Text Launcher.” Save, and then check that tapping the home button now actually opens the Text Launcher. If you should be greeted with the QuirkLogic Launcher instead, since that seems to be hard-coded into the firmware, do not panic; reboot the device, enter the Text Launcher again, and then hold your finger on “QL Launcher” to be greeted with the Android settings menu to uninstall it. Reboot again, and you should be just fine. (Do not worry; everything from QuirkLogic still works properly even without the official QL Launcher.)
- Congratulations. You now have a customizable Android tablet rather than the entirely locked down device that you purchased from QuirkLogic.
Few Android applications are developed for devices with large, high resolution displays, even fewer are developed with E-Ink panels in mind, and even fewer will install at all on the Papyr’s custom version of an outdated release of Android (I think that the operating system is based on Android 5 or 6). Here are a few tips and tricks that I have learned over my days of tinkering with this setup. Unless otherwise noted, every application that I discuss here is both libre and installable inside F-Droid on the Papyr device.
Necessities: Adding features that should be on the Papyr by default
- Although ReLaunchX does not play nicely on the Papyr as an application launcher (having something to do with QuirkLogic’s hard-coding of the Home button), the rest of its functionality is superb. It works as an advanced file browser, a tool for checking battery status, a tool for adjusting Wi-Fi settings (I have not tested this, using QuirkLogic’s own Wi-Fi settings instead), and more.
- FTP Server (Free) works out-of-the-box to allow simple file transfer both to and from the Papyr device over Wi-Fi, as well as management of files that are on the device from inside a separate computer. I have my base directory set as “/” (root); this shows every file and folder that is possible to see on the device without rooting. (Also, I was unable to make primitive ftpd work properly.)
- rcx, rclone for Android, allows me to sync my pCloud account with the device in a few taps. rcx unlocks a huge array of cloud storage solutions, including anything with WebDAV.
- The device has a working Bluetooth chip. Confusingly, QuirkLogic has Bluetooth disabled by default. You may enable Bluetooth in the default Android Settings application (which is normally hidden behind the QuirkLogic software). I have successfully paired the Papyr with my Android smart phone, but I have not yet done any actual testing of Bluetooth functionality. My assumption is that, with enough tinkering, file transfers may be done over Bluetooth; keyboards, headsets, controllers, and other relevant Bluetooth gadgets can be configured to expand the Papyr’s functionality in wholly new ways; and so on.
- Although the Home button is the only physical button on the Papyr, Key Mapper is sophisticated enough to differentiate between a single press, a double press, a long hold, and so on. I have a simple setup in which a quick press of the Home button opens my application launcher of choice and a long press cycles between Portrait mode (0°) and Landscape mode (90°), thereby allowing the device to run any application that supports both Portrait and Landscape modes in either orientation.
Niceties: Improving the experience of using the Papyr
- EInkBro, a Web browser specifically intended for use on E-Ink devices, and Fennec, a fully libre version of Firefox, both work better on the Papyr than the stock Google Chrome. (Neither is perfect, but both are better than Chrome.)
- Screen Stream works brilliantly for full screen sharing over Wi-Fi (LAN). It handles the device’s full resolution, as well as full color, at what is a slow but non-distracting (for me) refresh rate. It even works over the Wi-Fi at the University of St. Thomas (my employer). I expect this to be my replacement for the Workbook sharing functionality of InkWorks after that is no longer available (on March 1).
Extras: A few additional goodies to help you get started
- If you should be unsatisfied with Text Launcher, then you ought to install Twisted Home Manager, which allows quick (live) switching between different Android launchers, to help you test different options. I actually have switched from Text Launcher to Simple Ink Launcher (downloaded directly from Bitbucket) with everything set to the largest viewing size.
- CPU Info shows a huge amount of information about the Papyr’s hardware, software, and more. By the way, CPU Info definitively proves that the QuirkLogic team built its software atop Sony’s own custom Android operating system that came with its iteration of this same hardware gadget, that is, the Digital Paper. Many entries inside CPU Info on the Papyr say something like “Sony,” “Digital Paper,” or “dp.”
- AnkiDroid has full integration with the AnkiWeb platform for studying Anki decks. Be sure to activate “Safe Display Mode,” which is partly intended for E-Ink devices (hamburger menu -> Settings -> Advanced). I recommend turning the font scaling to the highest available (hamburger menu -> Settings -> Appearance), and I recommend avoiding special graphical effects. AnkiDroid does not scale well on the Papyr’s large display (everything is a bit too small for me, even with the system-wide font size increased from Normal to Huge), but I do appreciate having it available.
- BibleTime Mobile works well on the device in both portrait and landscape modes. (I downloaded the latest .apk here.)
Other Tips & Notes
- The famous KOReader e-reading application does not work well on the Papyr. First, it is slow overall, likely owing to the gadget’s weak CPU and rather shallow 2GB of RAM. Second, there is not any way to do handwriting within KOReader. Third, the UI does not scale quite correctly with the Papyr’s display size, and even small .pdf files quickly fall out of alignment. QuirkLogic’s own Book Reader is a better choice overall for reading and interacting with e-books and large .pdf files on the Papyr. I also recommend the minimalistic and swift MuPDF, specifically the MuPDF mini variant (although the full-size one should work well, too), for quick reading of small documents on which you do not intend to make annotations.
- I recommend opening the default Android Settings menu (which was previously hidden behind QuirkLogic’s interface), tapping “Display,” and increasing Font size from Normal to either Large or Huge. Although this change makes QuirkLogic’s applications look somewhat awkward, it improves the experience of using basically every other application. (Note that after following the tutorial above, there will be three applications called “Settings,” two of QuirkLogic’s own and now the default Android one.)
- pCloud for Android version 3.2.3 is the newest release that I can verify to work on the Papyr. Here is a direct download on Uptodown. (Despite the fact that Uptodown is known to be a trustworthy site, and the application functions as intended, remember that any third-party download must be done with caution and at your own risk.) Having the full official pCloud application provides a faster, more native-like experience than relying on rcx, including comforts like opening files from pCloud directly inside MuPDF. For now, I will allow pCloud to be the only aftermarket application that autolaunches (at device startup). If this decision should negatively affect system battery life or other performance, then I would switch back to using rcx only. Beside, rcx does have the advantages of being libre and available for download inside F-Droid.
- There is not any clear way to install the Google Play Store, which typically requires special privileges from Google. Beside, I do not intend to try to install either that application center or any other proprietary application download service. apkpure and other websites offer .apk files for download separately from such applications. From both F-Droid and elsewhere, every application that I have tried installing that is listed as working with Android prior to version 7 (especially 5) at least installs.
This is super helpful, thanks for writing it up! There’s so little other info online.
Do you have advice on a new workflow for actually annotating and sharing docs, esp PDFs? Are you still using the QL Ink app and if so do you have simpler ways to do import/export?
I am glad that you have found my tutorial to be helpful, Joe.
I do still use QL Ink for my .pdf annotating, but I do not do so because I have any special admiration for this particular software application over and against any other one. Rather, I simply cannot find another workable option for the Papyr. The problem is that there are not any applications that I can find other than the built-in QL Ink and (QuirkLogic’s) Book Reader that are optimized for this particular device. I have tried several handwriting, note taking, and document annotating programs, but I have not found a single one that accepts the device’s stylus input without terrible latency and/or gross inaccuracy.
If someone should find a way to install Sony’s software applications for the Digital Paper onto the QuirkLogic Papyr (which runs Sony’s own customized Android operating system), *please* let us know by posting a comment here.
There is one special trick that I have found to make it so that imports into QL Ink (not exports from QL Ink — only imports) are not exclusively tied to Google Drive and/or Dropbox. With the Papyr mounted as a network drive in a standard file manager (I happen to use pcmanfm-qt mostly nowadays) via FTP, I place the .pdf file of my choosing inside the “QLDocuments” folder (which is accessible via multiple paths, but I tend to use /storage/sdcard0/QLDocuments). Then, I create a new Workbook, and when I click “Import,” I am able to select that .pdf file from the Local directory. (The .pdf file is not available as a Workbook on its own, of course, but it becomes available inside the “Import” menu.)
File transferring and management via FTP (using FTP Server [Free]) is, as I discussed above, an essential improvement to quality of life while using the Papyr. Being able to rename Workbooks, rearrange folders, etc. all inside my desktop file manager has saved a huge amount of time while I have been reorganizing the device in anticipation of the closure of InkWorks (which will be happening tomorrow). It is also useful to be able to do things like drag and drop .apk files into the “Download” directory (ReLaunchX reliably triggers the application installer). FTP opens a lot of possibilities.
Oddly, I still cannot find where the imported Book Reader files are housed (even after having run multiple recursive searches with several different query options). My assumption is that they are hidden inside a folder that requires root permission to access.
Anyway, Joe, please let me know if you should find any other important tips or tricks to keep this device working in professional environments.
Deus te benedicat,
Thank you very much for your blog. I installed all tools mentionned by you. I made a big mistake. I did a factory reset.
Now I have an unknown page with a document reader and stylus doesn’t work anymore or not recognized.
Can you help me to regain my papyr environnement?
Thank you, Farid, for commenting. Unfortunately, as I posted plainly at the start of the tutorial itself, any modifications that you might choose to perform are at your own risk. If the factory reset did not work properly, and your device is bricked/locked, seeing as the QuirkLogic team has closed its website and all communication, then you might not have any reasonable option(s). I suppose that you could try doing another factory reset, but, of course, that also might not work.
Thank you Stephan.It seems completely locked and nothing occured after many reset and combinations.
I think there is no way.
Maybe the solution is to find an used one with broken display and to build one with parts.
It’s really a pity that Quirklogic team has closed and they disable the usb data functionality on the device.
I will necessary have to buy a new one but I don’t know which one to choice;
I am sorry to read that, Farid. You also may try tinkering with dpt-tools to re-flash the Papyr with Sony’s or Fujitsu’s spin of the same core OS, but, of course, that might be even more far-fetched. In any event, here are those tools: https://github.com/HappyZ/dpt-tools
Excellent job in investigating alternative ways of using the Papyr, which is let down by its own software.
It makes one wonder why on earth vendors spend so much time trying to hide the original OS (Android in this case) behind their own front end, instead of building on top of the OS.
Maybe we should ask QuirkLogic to open the software.
Could you imagine any way of exploiting the FTP Server for uploading PDFs to the Papyr that can be opened in the Book Reader? I presume this is not possible, because apparently they index content through a database.
We could use the device as an e-reader without annotation features, if there was any PDF reader that could access local storage. MuPDF does not seem to have such a capability.
I am glad that you appreciate the tutorial, PNS.
MuPDF can access local storage. It gives that option at each fresh opening.
As for my ideas for a .pdf reading workflow, please read my response to Joe H.’s comment above.
Of course, there are many .pdf readers available for Android. Please let us know which one should work the best for you (and why).
Deus te benedicat,
Yes, MuPDF does access local storage. Somehow it took it quite a bit of time to do it in my installation, but it now works.
It is not of much use, though. After opening a book, there is no way of getting to any menu to open another.
By the way, I installed Open Launcher and it is a bit more elegant than Text Launcher. Fonts and icons are still small (despite setting font size to Huge in the Android Settings menu), but at least it is a GUI.
So, we are now at the situation that we can upload PDF documents to Papyr via the FTP Server (free), open them individually via muPDF and having to go through the launcher again, to swith to another document. Very cumbersome process.
You can go to file:///sdcard in Chrome and see the local storage directory tree, but trying to open a PDF from there just crashes Chrome.
Maybe we should petition QuirkLogic to have someone spend a few hours to “open” their software, i.e. at least allow the Home button to go to the home page of the launcher (instead of always going to QL Launcher) and add F-Droid as an icon to the QL Launcher Home screen. Also, adding an option to “Download” documents from the local storage (instead of only GDrive and Dropbox) would be nice.
With these 3 simple changes, the Papyr could become a much more useful device than what it currently is.
Again, thanks for pioneering this effort.
Thank you again, PNS. Yes, I agree that the device is still cumbersome to use even after ‘unlocking’ it with F-Droid.
As for choice of launcher, as I noted in the tutorial, I actually prefer Dmitriy Simbiriatin’s Simple Ink Launcher (with everything scaled to the maximum possible sizes) to the Text Launcher. I recommend the Text Launcher in the tutorial because it is easy to install immediately after installing F-Droid and actually gets the job done (unlike almost every other launcher that is available in F-Droid). The Simple Ink Launcher, however, almost looks and runs as though it were designed for the Papyr.
Please keep me posted with what else you find to be helpful as you continue refining your workflow. Cheers.
Mate – you are a total legend! What a find this page was. If you ever make it to Australia, I will buy you a few beers!
Thank you, Alastair Wiggins. Enjoy your liberated QuirkLogic Papyr.
Deus te benedicat,
Hello there sir
Thanks for this guide I really appreciate your effort to help users of this device. I have one question.
How do I prevent my browser (I’m using E Ink Bro as per your recommendation) from crashing when trying to download Simple Ink Launcher from bitbucket?
Every attempt to begin the download ends with the app crashing on the Papyr.
George Mikhael, I actually prefer to transfer .apk files to the Papyr via FTP (the default “Downloads” folder is convenient) and then open them for installation inside ReLaunchX (used as a file browser — not an application launcher). Happy tinkering.
Thanks so much sir, I appreciate it.