Basic docker commands every docker’er should know

A container ship carrying containers

We all know how hard it is to create and maintain virtual machines. The effort to manage these virtual machines increases exponentially with the number of virtual machines we deploy. Docker solves this particular problem and it is very good at it.

What is Docker?

According to Wikipedia, docker is a set of platform as a service products that uses OS-level virtualization to deliver software in packages called containers. Containers are isolated from one another and bundle their own software, libraries and configuration files; they can communicate with each other through well-defined channels.

In simpler words, Docker is a container ship which carries a bunch of containers. Here every container is a virtual machine which generally has it’s own operating system and networking. But, these containers are extremely lightweight and super fast. To know more about docker and how it works I suggest watching this youtube video.

As we now know what is docker let’s see what are the commands we need to get started with Docker.



This is the very first command you should know. It gives us the clear description and various options available in docker.

docker --help

You can also use this with other docker subcommands.

docker run --help


We can build a docker image through a docker file. We have to specify the location of the docker file in this command. It can be either a remote git repository or local disk.

docker build

If the file is in local

docker build ../file_path

If the terminal is opened in the same location, you can use something like this.

docker build .

Here dot represents the current folder.

To tag your images with the name you like

docker build -t your_image_name ./file_path


To see the images we built, we have

docker images

The above command displays all the images except intermediatory. To see intermediatory images we have to include all(-a) flag.

docker images -a

The output of the image command looks something like this

Screenshot of docker image command

To remove or delete an image

docker rmi image_id


Once you build an image it’s time to run it. To run an image, we use the docker run command.

docker run 73184fe7d79e

Here 73184fe7d79e is the image id of one of the images we built.

To run docker in the background also known as detached mode, use ‘-d’ with the run.

docker run -d 73184fe7d79e

To give a name to the container

docker run --name your_container_name 73184fe7d79e


To list all the running containers

docker ps

To list all the closed and running containers

docker ps -a

To stop the running container

docker kill container_id


docker stop container_id

If you’re wondering what’s the difference between both, I suggest you to read this article.

To remove a container

docker rm container_id


Port mapping is not considered as basic, yet there is a simple command to connect between host and container.

docker run -p 3000:4000 container_id

Here 3000 is the host port i.e., windows or mac. Port 4000 is the container port. All the traffic in the container port 4000 is routed to host port of 3000. Hence we can listen to http://localhost:3000 for the container traffic in our browser.

Interactive Mode

There are times where you want to enter inside of your container. Either it is to debug or just to see what’s inside. It is possible with this command

docker run -it 73184fe7d79e /bin/bash

On some Linux distributions above command may not work. If that’s the case use this

docker run -it 73184fe7d79e sh


Prune is nothing but removing everything in the docker. It’s like disk clean up in docker.

docker system prune

The above command removes everything but running container. To remove with running containers, use this

docker system prune -a


Logs are nothing but the terminal output of the container. To display these logs, we have

docker logs container_id

The above command displays logs of the container at the time of execution. To continuously follow logs of the container use

docker logs -f container_id

These are the docker commands every day we use at work.

Thank you!