Docker is a great tool for automating the deployment of Linux applications inside software containers, but to really take full advantage of its potential it’s best if each component of your application runs in its own container. For complex applications with a lot of components, orchestrating all the containers to start up and shut down together (not to mention talk to each other) can quickly become unwieldy.

The Docker community came up with a popular solution called Fig, which allowed you to use a single YAML file to orchestrate all your Docker containers and configurations. This became so popular that the Docker team decided to make Docker Compose based on the Fig source, which is now deprecated. Docker Compose makes it easier for users to orchestrate the processes of Docker containers, including starting up, shutting down, and setting up intra-container linking and volumes.

In this tutorial, you will install the latest version of Docker Compose to help you manage multi-container applications, and will explore the basic commands of the software.

Docker and Docker Compose Concepts

Using Docker Compose requires a combination of a bunch of different Docker concepts in one, so before we get started let’s take a minute to review the various concepts involved. If you’re already familiar with Docker concepts like volumes, links, and port forwarding then you might want to go ahead and skip on to the next section.

Docker Images

Each Docker container is a local instance of a Docker image. You can think of a Docker image as a complete Linux installation. Usually a minimal installation contains only the bare minimum of packages needed to run the image. These images use the kernel of the host system, but since they are running inside a Docker container and only see their own file system, it’s perfectly possible to run a distribution like CentOS on an Ubuntu host (or vice-versa).

Most Docker images are distributed via the Docker Hub, which is maintained by the Docker team. Most popular open source projects have a corresponding image uploaded to the Docker Registry, which you can use to deploy the software. When possible, it’s best to grab “official” images, since they are guaranteed by the Docker team to follow Docker best practices.

Communication Between Docker Images

Docker containers are isolated from the host machine, meaning that by default the host machine has no access to the file system inside the Docker container, nor any means of communicating with it via the network. This can make configuring and working with the image running inside a Docker container difficult.

Docker has three primary ways to work around this. The first and most common is to have Docker specify environment variables that will be set inside the Docker container. The code running inside the Docker container will then check the values of these environment variables on startup and use them to configure itself properly.

Another commonly used method is a Docker data volume. Docker volumes come in two flavors — internal and shared.

Specifying an internal volume just means that for a folder you specify for a particular Docker container, the data will be persisted when the container is removed. For example, if you wanted to make sure your log files persisted you might specify an internal /var/log volume.

A shared volume maps a folder inside a Docker container onto a folder on the host machine. This allows you to easily share files between the Docker container and the host machine.

The third way to communicate with a Docker container is via the network. Docker allows communication between different Docker containers via links, as well as port forwarding, allowing you to forward ports from inside the Docker container to ports on the host server. For example, you can create a link to allow your WordPress and MariaDB Docker containers to talk to each other and use port-forwarding to expose WordPress to the outside world so that users can connect to it.

How To Install and Use Docker Compose on CentOS 7


To follow this article, you will need the following:

Once these are in place, you will be ready to follow along.

Step 1 — Installing Docker Compose

In order to get the latest release, take the lead of the Docker docs and install Docker Compose from the binary in Docker’s GitHub repository.

Check the current release and if necessary, update it in the command below:

# sudo curl -L "$(uname -s)-$(uname -m)" -o /usr/local/bin/docker-compose

Next, set the permissions to make the binary executable:

# sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/docker-compose

Then, verify that the installation was successful by checking the version:

# docker-compose --version

This will print out the version you installed:

docker-compose version 1.23.2, build 1110ad01

Now that you have Docker Compose installed, you’re ready to run a “Hello World” example.

Step 2 — Running a Container with Docker Compose

The public Docker registry, Docker Hub, includes a simple “Hello World” image for demonstration and testing. It illustrates the minimal configuration required to run a container using Docker Compose: a YAML file that calls a single image.

First, create a directory for our YAML file:

# mkdir hello-world

Then change into the directory:

# cd hello-world

Now create the YAML file using your favorite text editor. This tutorial will use Vi:

# vi docker-compose.yml

Enter insert mode, by pressing i, then put the following contents into the file:

  image: hello-world

The first line will be part of the container name. The second line specifies which image to use to create the container. When you run the command docker-compose up it will look for a local image by the name specified, hello-world.

With this in place, hit ESC to leave insert mode. Enter :x then ENTER to save and exit the file.

To look manually at images on your system, use the docker images command:

# docker images

When there are no local images at all, only the column headings display:

REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE

Now, while still in the ~/hello-world directory, execute the following command to create the container:

# docker-compose up

The first time we run the command, if there’s no local image named hello-world, Docker Compose will pull it from the Docker Hub public repository:

Pulling my-test (hello-world:)...
latest: Pulling from library/hello-world
1b930d010525: Pull complete
. . .

After pulling the image, docker-compose creates a container, attaches, and runs the hello program, which in turn confirms that the installation appears to be working:

. . .
Creating helloworld_my-test_1...
Attaching to helloworld_my-test_1
my-test_1 | 
my-test_1 | Hello from Docker.
my-test_1 | This message shows that your installation appears to be working correctly.
my-test_1 | 
. . .

It will then print an explanation of what it did:

. . .
my-test_1  | To generate this message, Docker took the following steps:
my-test_1  |  1. The Docker client contacted the Docker daemon.
my-test_1  |  2. The Docker daemon pulled the "hello-world" image from the Docker Hub.
my-test_1  |     (amd64)
my-test_1  |  3. The Docker daemon created a new container from that image which runs the
my-test_1  |     executable that produces the output you are currently reading.
my-test_1  |  4. The Docker daemon streamed that output to the Docker client, which sent it
my-test_1  |     to your terminal.
. . .

Docker containers only run as long as the command is active, so once hello finished running, the container stops. Consequently, when you look at active processes, the column headers will appear, but the hello-world container won’t be listed because it’s not running:

# docker ps
CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED             STATUS                      PORTS               NAMES

Use the -a flag to show all containers, not just the active ones:

# docker ps -a
CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED             STATUS                      PORTS               NAMES
50a99a0beebd        hello-world         "/hello"            3 minutes ago       Exited (0) 3 minutes ago                       hello-world_my-test_1

Now that you have tested out running a container, you can move on to exploring some of the basic Docker Compose commands.

Step 3 — Learning Docker Compose Commands

To get you started with Docker Compose, this section will go over the general commands that the docker-compose tool supports.

The docker-compose command works on a per-directory basis. You can have multiple groups of Docker containers running on one machine — just make one directory for each container and one docker-compose.yml file for each directory.

So far you’ve been running docker-compose up on your own, from which you can use CTRL-C to shut the container down. This allows debug messages to be displayed in the terminal window. This isn’t ideal though; when running in production it is more robust to have docker-compose act more like a service. One simple way to do this is to add the -d option when you up your session:

# docker-compose up -d

docker-compose will now fork to the background.

To show your group of Docker containers (both stopped and currently running), use the following command:

# docker-compose ps -a

If a container is stopped, the State will be listed as Exited, as shown in the following example:

        Name            Command   State    Ports
hello-world_my-test_1   /hello    Exit 0        

A running container will show Up:

     Name              Command          State        Ports      
nginx_nginx_1   nginx -g daemon off;   Up      443/tcp, 80/tcp 

To stop all running Docker containers for an application group, issue the following command in the same directory as the docker-compose.yml file that you used to start the Docker group:

# docker-compose stop

Note: docker-compose kill is also available if you need to shut things down more forcefully.

In some cases, Docker containers will store their old information in an internal volume. If you want to start from scratch you can use the rm command to fully delete all the containers that make up your container group:

# docker-compose rm 

If you try any of these commands from a directory other than the directory that contains a Docker container and .yml file, it will return an error:

        Can't find a suitable configuration file in this directory or any
        parent. Are you in the right directory?

        Supported filenames: docker-compose.yml, docker-compose.yaml

This section has covered the basics of how to manipulate containers with Docker Compose. If you needed to gain greater control over your containers, you could access the filesystem of the Docker container and work from a command prompt inside your container, a process that is described in the next section.

Step 4 — Accessing the Docker Container Filesystem

In order to work on the command prompt inside a container and access its filesystem, you can use the docker exec command.

The “Hello World” example exits after it runs, so to test out docker exec, start a container that will keep running. For the purposes of this tutorial, use the Nginx image from Docker Hub.

Create a new directory named nginx and move into it:

# mkdir ~/nginx

# cd ~/nginx

Next, make a docker-compose.yml file in your new directory and open it in a text editor:

# vi docker-compose.yml

Next, add the following lines to the file:

  image: nginx

Save the file and exit. Start the Nginx container as a background process with the following command:

# docker-compose up -d

Docker Compose will download the Nginx image and the container will start in the background.

Now you will need the CONTAINER ID for the container. List all of the containers that are running with the following command:

# docker ps

You will see something similar to the following:

Output of `docker ps`
CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND                  CREATED             STATUS              PORTS               NAMES
b86b6699714c        nginx               "nginx -g 'daemon of…"   20 seconds ago      Up 19 seconds       80/tcp              nginx_nginx_1

If you wanted to make a change to the filesystem inside this container, you’d take its ID (in this example b86b6699714c) and use docker exec to start a shell inside the container:

# docker exec -it b86b6699714c /bin/bash

The -t option opens up a terminal, and the -i option makes it interactive. /bin/bash opens a bash shell to the running container.

You will then see a bash prompt for the container similar to:


From here, you can work from the command prompt inside your container. Keep in mind, however, that unless you are in a directory that is saved as part of a data volume, your changes will disappear as soon as the container is restarted. Also, remember that most Docker images are created with very minimal Linux installs, so some of the command line utilities and tools you are used to may not be present.

How To Install and Use Docker Compose on Ubuntu 20.04


To follow this article, you will need:

  • Access to an Ubuntu 20.04 local machine or development server as a non-root user with sudo privileges. If you’re using a remote server, it’s advisable to have an active firewall installed.
  • Docker installed on your server or local machine, following Steps 1 and 2 of How To Install and Use Docker on Linux

Step 1 — Installing Docker Compose

To make sure you obtain the most updated stable version of Docker Compose, you’ll download this software from its official Github repository.

First, confirm the latest version available in their releases page. At the time of this writing, the most current stable version is 2.2.3.

Use the following command to download:

# mkdir -p ~/.docker/cli-plugins/

# curl -SL -o ~/.docker/cli-plugins/docker-compose

Next, set the correct permissions so that the docker compose command is executable:

# chmod +x ~/.docker/cli-plugins/docker-compose

To verify that the installation was successful, you can run:

# docker compose version

You’ll see output similar to this:

Docker Compose version v2.2.3

Docker Compose is now successfully installed on your system. In the next section, you’ll see how to set up a docker-compose.yml file and get a containerized environment up and running with this tool.

Step 2 — Setting Up a docker-compose.yml File

To demonstrate how to set up a docker-compose.yml file and work with Docker Compose, you’ll create a web server environment using the official Nginx image from Docker Hub, the public Docker registry. This containerized environment will serve a single static HTML file.

Start off by creating a new directory in your home folder, and then moving into it:

# mkdir ~/compose-demo

# cd ~/compose-demo

In this directory, set up an application folder to serve as the document root for your Nginx environment:

# mkdir app

Using your preferred text editor, create a new index.html file within the app folder:

# nano app/index.html

Place the following content into this file:

<!doctype html>
<html lang="en">
    <meta charset="utf-8">
    <title>Docker Compose Demo</title>
    <link rel="stylesheet" href="">

    <h1>This is a Docker Compose Demo Page.</h1>
    <p>This content is being served by an Nginx container.</p>


Save and close the file when you’re done. If you are using nano, you can do that by typing CTRL+X, then Y and ENTER to confirm.

Next, create the docker-compose.yml file:

# nano docker-compose.yml

Insert the following content in your docker-compose.yml file:

version: '3.7'
    image: nginx:alpine
      - "8000:80"
      - ./app:/usr/share/nginx/html

The docker-compose.yml file typically starts off with the version definition. This will tell Docker Compose which configuration version you’re using.

You then have the services block, where you set up the services that are part of this environment. In your case, you have a single service called web. This service uses the nginx:alpine image and sets up a port redirection with the ports directive. All requests on port 8000 of the host machine (the system from where you’re running Docker Compose) will be redirected to the web container on port 80, where Nginx will be running.

The volumes directive will create a shared volume between the host machine and the container. This will share the local app folder with the container, and the volume will be located at /usr/share/nginx/html inside the container, which will then overwrite the default document root for Nginx.

Save and close the file.

You have set up a demo page and a docker-compose.yml file to create a containerized web server environment that will serve it. In the next step, you’ll bring this environment up with Docker Compose.

Step 3 — Running Docker Compose

With the docker-compose.yml file in place, you can now execute Docker Compose to bring your environment up. The following command will download the necessary Docker images, create a container for the web service, and run the containerized environment in background mode:

# docker compose up -d

Docker Compose will first look for the defined image on your local system, and if it can’t locate the image it will download the image from Docker Hub. You’ll see output like this:

Creating network "compose-demo_default" with the default driver
Pulling web (nginx:alpine)...
alpine: Pulling from library/nginx
cbdbe7a5bc2a: Pull complete
10c113fb0c77: Pull complete
9ba64393807b: Pull complete
c829a9c40ab2: Pull complete
61d685417b2f: Pull complete
Digest: sha256:57254039c6313fe8c53f1acbf15657ec9616a813397b74b063e32443427c5502
Status: Downloaded newer image for nginx:alpine
Creating compose-demo_web_1 ... done

Note: If you run into a permission error regarding the Docker socket, this means you skipped Step 2 of How To Install and Use Docker on Linux. Going back and completing that step will enable permissions to run docker commands without sudo.

Your environment is now up and running in the background. To verify that the container is active, you can run:

docker compose ps

This command will show you information about the running containers and their state, as well as any port redirections currently in place:

       Name                     Command               State          Ports        
compose-demo_web_1   / ngin ...   Up>80/tcp

You can now access the demo application by pointing your browser to either localhost:8000 if you are running this demo on your local machine, or your_server_domain_or_IP:8000 if you are running this demo on a remote server.

You’ll see a page like this:

The shared volume you’ve set up within the docker-compose.yml file keeps your app folder files in sync with the container’s document root. If you make any changes to the index.html file, they will be automatically picked up by the container and thus reflected on your browser when you reload the page.

In the next step, you’ll see how to manage your containerized environment with Docker Compose commands.

Step 4 — Getting Familiar with Docker Compose Commands

You’ve seen how to set up a docker-compose.yml file and bring your environment up with docker-compose up. You’ll now see how to use Docker Compose commands to manage and interact with your containerized environment.

To check the logs produced by your Nginx container, you can use the logs command:

#  docker compose logs

You’ll see output similar to this:

Attaching to compose-demo_web_1
web_1  | / /docker-entrypoint.d/ is not empty, will attempt to perform configuration
web_1  | / Looking for shell scripts in /docker-entrypoint.d/
web_1  | / Launching /docker-entrypoint.d/
web_1  | Getting the checksum of /etc/nginx/conf.d/default.conf
web_1  | Enabled listen on IPv6 in /etc/nginx/conf.d/default.conf
web_1  | / Launching /docker-entrypoint.d/
web_1  | / Configuration complete; ready for start up
web_1  | - - [02/Jun/2020:10:47:13 +0000] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 353 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/83.0.4103.61 Safari/537.36" "-"

If you want to pause the environment execution without changing the current state of your containers, you can use:

# docker compose pause
Pausing compose-demo_web_1 ... done

To resume execution after issuing a pause:

# docker compose unpause
Unpausing compose-demo_web_1 ... done

The stop command will terminate the container execution, but it won’t destroy any data associated with your containers:

# docker compose stop
Stopping compose-demo_web_1 ... done

If you want to remove the containers, networks, and volumes associated with this containerized environment, use the down command:

#  docker compose down

Removing compose-demo_web_1 ... done
Removing network compose-demo_default

Notice that this won’t remove the base image used by Docker Compose to spin up your environment (in your case, nginx:alpine). This way, whenever you bring your environment up again with a docker compose up, the process will be much faster since the image is already on your system.

In case you want to also remove the base image from your system, you can use:

docker image rm nginx:alpine
Untagged: nginx:alpine
Untagged: nginx@sha256:b89a6ccbda39576ad23fd079978c967cecc6b170db6e7ff8a769bf2259a71912
Deleted: sha256:7d0cdcc60a96a5124763fddf5d534d058ad7d0d8d4c3b8be2aefedf4267d0270
Deleted: sha256:05a0eaca15d731e0029a7604ef54f0dda3b736d4e987e6ac87b91ac7aac03ab1
Deleted: sha256:c6bbc4bdac396583641cb44cd35126b2c195be8fe1ac5e6c577c14752bbe9157
Deleted: sha256:35789b1e1a362b0da8392ca7d5759ef08b9a6b7141cc1521570f984dc7905eb6
Deleted: sha256:a3efaa65ec344c882fe5d543a392a54c4ceacd1efd91662d06964211b1be4c08
Deleted: sha256:3e207b409db364b595ba862cdc12be96dcdad8e36c59a03b7b3b61c946a5741a

Note: Please refer to our guide on How to Install and Use Docker for a more detailed reference on Docker commands.


You’ve now installed Docker Compose, tested your installation by running a “Hello World” example, and explored some basic commands.

While the “Hello World” example confirmed your installation, the simple configuration does not show one of the main benefits of Docker Compose — being able to bring a group of Docker containers up and down all at the same time.


Installing Docker Compose on CentOS 7

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