Docker commands you should know

Let’s start a Docker tutorial series by the most common commands you will ever type while working on your Dev-ops tasks.

I assume that you’ve at least followed the Docker Guide onto

Here you will find some commands to manipulate your images, containers, services, volumes and networks. And for more details or deep learning, other guides will follow.

There are also various examples related to docker-compose which will be covered next.


I guess you already know about it but let’s review the commands to list containers and services :

docker ps

docker ps -aq

The a parameter allows us to see all containers including the closed ones and the q parameter shows only the ids of the containers.

And for services :

docker service ls

docker service SERVICE_ID ps

The last command shows the service id with more details (see the network for instance).

Running :

Let’s see 1 command with several parameters :

docker run --rm -it --entrypoint /bin/sh IMAGE_NAME

The -it parameter allows us to interact with the container via a tty. You may also specify where you need your container to drop its messages (stdout, stderror using the -a parameter – see the documentation using docker run –help).

The –rm flag cleans up the image after stop.

The entrypoint flag allows us to override the default command of the image, here we want to access the shell commands instead of bash. 

Checkout the next docker command :

docker run --rm -it --network host --mount type=bind,source=/home/user/Documents/config.yml,target=/etc/prog/config.yml -p 8080:80 image_name:version

Several things here :

  • Passing the network flag and typing host makes our container reachable on our own local network.
  • Next flag passes the source config file of our program to the container on start.
  • The -p flag defines the external port on which we can access our container.

Networking & docker-compose

Make a service reachable on a shared network (ex: a service under monitoring network) :

      name: monitoring_default

Then you can attach a container as follow :

docker run ... --network monitoring_default

More about docker-compose

To exclude a service :

docker-compose up --scale service_name=0 -d

Beware the -d flag which set the remaining services to run in the background.

Stop and restart container after config update (modification of compose file) ;

docker-compose stop SERVICE_NAME && docker-compose up -d SERVICE_NAME

Updating an image needs us to remove the old one :

docker pull new_image

docker-compose up -d --remove-orphans

Service update

Example of a service update :

docker service update SERVICE_NAME --image IMAGE_NAME_AND_VERSION --force

Simply restart the service :
docker service update SERVICE_NAME --force

Copying data to/from container

As simple as the scp command :
docker cp CONTAINER_ID:/etc/program /home/user/Documents/program

Cleaning :

There are various way to stop, remove and clean with Docker. Here is a quick recap :

Stopping all running containers :

 docker stop $(docker ps -aq)

As you can notice, you are using a command to list the container ids then you stop them.

Removing all containers

 docker rm $(docker ps -aq)

Removing all images

docker rmi $(docker images -q)

Remember to read the documentation for more details (ie :

For docker services :

 docker service rm myservice

In order to clean the system, issue the following commands :

docker system prune

Feel free to browse the web page about pruning.

For all images at once :

docker image prune -a

And finally for volume and network :

docker volume prune

docker network prune

Working with volumes :

Using docker-compose.yml :

– ./data:/var/lib/mysql

Under volumes section add a folder to match the one in the image container (./data on the local current folder -> /var/lib/mysql is the container path).

Network and aliases :

Adding an alias under a network name to be able to talk to the service :

      - db

We can use db to talk to whatever, however instead of using the legacy links parameter ( to let the services talk to each other, you need to work on the same network and external_links.

In case you need other containers from outside to access to them, you should look at overlay networking.

Starting from a Dockerfile instead of an image

Let’s say you made a Dockerfile and plan on using it as a container with other services, you can make a compose file and link it to your image as follow :

build: .
dockerfile: Dockerfile

Troubleshooting / Logs

In case a service is exiting, you can retrieve the logs using :

docker logs CONTAINER_ID

For containers that do not start, remember :

docker ps -a

Then log the details using docker logs and the failing container id.

Using grep with docker logs :
docker logs CONTAINER_ID 2>&1 | grep "Whatever"

In this command, the 2 refers to stderr and the 1 to stdout. The >& appends everything from stderr to stdout. You may not need to use this parameter but if Docker is configured to log details toward the error console, then this trick will help.

Live logs using tail:

docker logs -f tail 200 CONTAINER_ID

The -f parameter keeps printing logs while the container is running. The 200 prints out 200 last lines.

Timing example :
docker logs -t --since 2019-12-13T08:30:00+02:00 --until 2019-12-13T09:30:00+02:00

Above & below lines :

docker logs CONTAINER_ID 2>&1 | grep "whatever" -B 10 -A 10

If you have trouble with an image, make sure you run the latest version, a hash comparison will provide you with a quick view :

docker image inspect imageID


Additional tutorials will cover the monitoring subject, here we introduce a simple command to have a quick look on a swarm environment :

docker stats

Resource limiting for docker services

First of all inspect the details of the service :

docker service inspect YOUR_SERVICE

Limit the memory :

docker service update YOUR_SERVICE --limit-memory 2GB

Saving and Loading an image

If you don’t have access to a remote repository to save your images, you may us the following commands and send the files directly to production :

docker save -o image_file LATEST
docker load -i image_file

That’s it for today folks ! It’s a bit messy but can serve while looking at precise needs. It does for me actually and I plan on updating this page regularly with additional examples.

Next Docker tutorials will cover specific exercises to train yourself step by step to get a better grasp on the area.

Changing the config on a docker service

Whenever you have a service (could be under swarm…) running in production and you need to alter the configuration parameters (if there are not way to modify the settings on the fly with for instance Actuator), then you will need to restart the service and apply a new configuration.

Following are the steps :

1. Check the configuration of service :

$ docker service inspect name_of_your-service
$ docker config inspect name_of_your_configuration_file –pretty

2. create a new file locally and load it within docker :
$ nano new_conf.yml

$ cat new_conf.yml | docker config create new_conf.yml –

3. Restart the service
$ docker service update name_of_your_service –config-rm name_of_your_old_configuration_file  –config-add source=new_conf.yml,target=/path_of_conf/name_of_conf_of_service.yml

Example with a fake service :
$ docker service update portal_fake_service –config-rm settings.json –config-add source=new_conf.json,target=/usr/share/nginx/html/assets/config.json

One response to “Docker commands you should know”

  1. […] for the Docker commands article, I won’t repeat the most basic ones, you can just browse the Git documentation or various […]

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