Docker cheat sheet

Docker cheat sheet

Docker has been out there since 2013. During these past 10 years, it underwent rapid development phases and regular API changes (I remember it quite well from 2014). Even though it's one of the most popular technologies that software developers are using every day, and it runs a lot of software now, many people still can't get out 100% of it.
Because of that, I've decided to create a cheat sheet that you can use to improve your docker skills!


Just a few words on what Docker images are: A Docker image is the set of processes outlined in the Dockerfile. It is helpful to think of these as templates created by the Dockerfiles. They are arranged in layers on top of each other. When you run a container, you're interacting with the top (latest) layer only.

List images

docker images

List all images

docker images -a

Import docker image from tarball

docker import

Build a docker image

docker build

Tag a docker image

docker tag {image_id} repo:tag

Build a docker image with a tag

docker build -t repo:tag

Create an image from a container

docker commit

Remove a single image

docker rmi {image_id}

Load docker image from stdin, including tags

docker import

See an image history

docker history {image_id}

Load a docker image from a file

docker load < archive.tar.gz

Push an image to the registry

docker push repo:tag

Pull an image from the registry

docker pull repo:tag

Remove dangling images

docker image prune

Remove all images that are not used by any container

docker image prune -a

Find an image in the official repository

docker search text


To simplify, we can say that when a Docker image is instantiated, it becomes a container. By creating an instance that draws on system resources like memory, the container begins to carry out whatever processes are together within the container.

Create a docker container (without starting it)

docker create

Rename a docker container

docker rename

Create and start a docker container

docker run

Create and start a container with a custom name and detach it

docker start --name your-name -d repo:tag

Delete a docker container

docker rm {container_name}

Update the container's limit

docker update

Remove the container once it stops

docker run --rm

Remove the container together with the volumes associated with it

docker rm -v

Start the container

docker start {container_name}

Stop the container

docker stop {container_name}

Restart the container

docker restart {container_name}

Send SIGKILL to the container

docker kill {container_name}

Attach to running container

docker attach {container_name}

List the running containers

docker ps

List all the containers, including stopped

docker ps -a

See docker stats. Provide the container name to show stats for that one only.

docker stats // docker stats {container_name}

See container logs; add -f to follow logs.

docker logs {container_name} // docker logs -f {container_name}

Inspect details of container - IP address, volumes attached, ENV variables

docker inspect {container_name}

Check what ports the container listens on

docker port {container_name}

Display running processes in the container

docker top {container-name}

Copy files between a container and a host

docker cp

Execute a command in a container

docker exec


Docker allows you to create a network that makes connecting to and between containers easier. There are three types of networks in docker - bridge, host, and none. By default, the new container is launched in bridge mode. To establish communication between containers, you should create a network for that.

Create a docker network.

docker network create {name}

List all docker networks.

docker network ls

Remove a docker network with a given name.

docker network rm {name}

Get details about the network (subnet, gateway, scope, type, etc.)

docker network inspect {name}

Connect a container to the network

docker network connect {network} {container}

Disconnect a container from the network

docker network disconnect {network} {container}

Docker compose

For years, if you wanted to run a bunch of docker containers grouped for a project, talk to each other, be dependent on each other, and have the ability to control the entire stack in a simple way, there was a docker-compose project (compose v1), which was a built-in python. Now we have compose v2, rewritten it to Go, and been part of Docker Desktop and as a plugin for Linux. The main difference is a compose subcommand of docker instead of being another binary. v2 is backward compatible, so if you're already familiar with docker-compose you'll be fine.

Run a multi-container application

docker compose up  - you can specify a config file with -f argument and run it in the background with -d argument

docker compose -f my-compose.yml up -d - will use my-compose.yml file as a definition and set up in the background.

List all running containers.

docker compose ps

Stop an entire set of containers

docker compose stop

Start an entire set of containers again

docker compose start

Restart an entire set of containers

docker compose restart

Stop and remove an entire set of containers

docker compose down

Build containers

docker compose build - you can use Dockerfile instead of the existing image.

Sample docker-compose file for Rails project:

    image: postgres
      - ./tmp/db:/var/lib/postgresql/data
      POSTGRES_PASSWORD: password
    build: .
    command: bash -c "rm -f tmp/pids/ && bundle exec rails s -p 3000 -b ''"
      - .:/myapp
      - "3000:3000"
      - db

The example above will create a multi-container application consisting of two services:
- db service that will use the latest postgres image and mount ./tmp/db directory as /var/lib/postgresql/data in the container.
- web service that will use Dockerfile in the current working directory to build a docker image for the Ruby on Rails application. It will expose port 3000 to use on the host system and depends on db service, so db service will be created and run first.

Source of well-defined docker-compose examples: (it's an official repository maintained by docker) - there are examples for popular services like WordPress, ELK stack, or Wireguard server.

Mateusz Kozak

Mateusz Kozak

Warsaw, Poland