This tutorial explains the advantages of working Node.js functions in Docker containers and how one can create a sensible growth workflow.

Node.js means that you can create quick and scalable net apps utilizing JavaScript on the server in addition to on the shopper. Your app could run completely in your growth machine, however are you able to make certain it’ll run in your colleague’s units or manufacturing servers?

Contemplate these eventualities:

  • Chances are you’ll be utilizing macOS when others use Home windows and the server runs Linux.
  • You’ve gotten Node.js 20 put in, however others use a spread of runtime variations.
  • You’re utilizing dependencies resembling databases, which have variations or will not be obtainable on different platforms.
  • Are you positive your new code can’t do something harmful on one other working system (OS)?
Desk of Contents

Docker Delivers

Docker helps to unravel these “however it works on my machine” points listed above. Slightly than putting in an software regionally, you run it in a light-weight remoted digital machine-like surroundings referred to as a container.

An actual digital machine emulates PC {hardware} so you may set up an OS. Docker emulates an OS so you may set up functions. It’s typical to put in one app per Linux-based container and join them through a digital community to allow them to talk on HTTP ports.

The benefits:

  • Your Docker setup can both emulate a manufacturing Linux server or you may deploy utilizing containers.
  • You’ll be able to obtain, set up, and configure dependencies in minutes.
  • Your containerized app runs identically throughout all units.
  • It’s safer. Your app might trash a container’s OS, however it gained’t have an effect on your PC and you may restart afresh in seconds.

With Docker, there’s no want to put in Node.js in your PC or use a runtime administration choice resembling nvm.

Your First Script

Set up Docker Desktop on Windows, macOS, or Linux then create a small script named model.js with the next code:

console.log(`Node.js model: ${ course of.model }`);

You probably have Node.js put in regionally, attempt working the script. You’ll see the output resembling this for those who had model 18 put in:

$ node model.js
Node.js model: v18.18.2

Now you can run the identical script inside a Docker container. The command under makes use of the newest long-term assist (LTS) model of Node.js. cd into the script’s listing and run it on macOS or Linux:

$ docker run --rm --name model 
  -v $PWD:/dwelling/node/app 
  -w /dwelling/node/app 
  node:lts-alpine model.js

Node.js model: v20.9.0

Home windows Powershell customers can use an analogous command with {} brackets round PWD:

> docker run --rm --name model -v ${PWD}:/dwelling/node/app -w /dwelling/node/app node:lts-alpine model.js

Node.js model: v20.9.0

The primary run could take a minute or two to execute as Docker downloads dependencies. Subsequent runs are instantaneous.

Let’s attempt a special model of Node — resembling the most recent launch of model 21. On macOS or Linux:

$ docker run --rm --name model 
  -v $PWD:/dwelling/node/app 
  -w /dwelling/node/app 
  node:21-alpine model.js

Node.js model: v21.1.0

On Home windows Powershell:

> docker run --rm --name model -v ${PWD}:/dwelling/node/app -w /dwelling/node/app node:21-alpine model.js

Node.js model: v21.1.0

Bear in mind the script is working inside a Linux container which has a particular model of Node.js put in.

Argument clarification

For the curious, the command arguments are:

  • docker run begins a brand new container from an picture — extra about that under.

  • --rm removes the container when it terminates. It’s not essential to retain containers until you have got good motive to restart them once more.

  • --name model assigns a reputation to the container for easier administration.

  • -v $PWD:/dwelling/node/app (or -v ${PWD}:/dwelling/node/app) bind mounts a quantity. On this case, the present straight on the host PC is mounted contained in the container at /dwelling/node/app.

  • -w /dwelling/node/app units the Node.js working listing.

  • node:lts-alpine is the picture — on this case, the LTS model of Node.js working in Alpine Linux. The picture incorporates the OS and recordsdata required to run an software. Consider it as a disk snapshot. You can begin any variety of containers from the identical picture: all of them reference the identical set of recordsdata so every container requires minimal sources.

  • model.js is the command to execute (from contained in the working listing).

Docker pictures can be found from Docker Hub and so they’re obtainable for functions and runtimes together with Node.js. Photographs are sometimes obtainable in a number of variations recognized with a tag resembling :lts-alpine, 20-bullseye-slim, or simply newest.

Observe that Alpine is a tiny Linux distribution with a base picture dimension of round 5MB. It doesn’t comprise many libraries, however it’s ok for easy tasks resembling these on this tutorial.

Operating Complicated Purposes

The model.js script above is easy and incorporates no dependencies or construct steps. Most Node.js functions use npm to put in and handle modules in a node_modules listing. You’ll be able to’t use the command above as a result of:

  • You’ll be able to’t run npm on the host PC (it’s possible you’ll not have the Node.js or the right model put in).
  • Some modules require platform particular binaries. You’ll be able to’t set up a Home windows binary on the host PC and anticipate it to run in a Linux container.

The answer is to create your personal Docker picture containing:

  • an applicable model of the Node.js runtime
  • an put in model of your app with all required modules

The next demonstration builds a easy Node.js app utilizing the Express.js framework. Create a brand new listing named easy and add a package deal.json file with the next content material:

  "title": "easy",
  "model": "1.0.0",
  "description": "easy Node.js and Docker instance",
  "kind": "module",
  "principal": "index.js",
  "scripts": {
    "debug": "node --watch --inspect= index.js",
    "begin": "node index.js"
  "license": "MIT",
  "dependencies": {
    "categorical": "^4.18.2"

Add an index.js file with JavaScript code:

import categorical from 'categorical';

const cfg = ;

const app = categorical();

app.get('/:title?', (req, res) => {
  res.ship(`Good day $!`);

app.hear(cfg.port, () => {
  console.log(`server listening at http://localhost:${ cfg.port }`);

Don’t try to put in dependencies or run this app on the host PC!

Create a file named Dockerfile with the next content material:

# base Node.js LTS picture
FROM node:lts-alpine

# outline surroundings variables
ENV HOME=/dwelling/node/app
ENV NODE_ENV=manufacturing

# create software folder and assign rights to the node consumer
RUN mkdir -p $HOME && chown -R node:node $HOME

# set the working listing

# set the lively consumer
USER node

# copy package deal.json from the host
COPY --chown=node:node package deal.json $HOME/

# set up software modules
RUN npm set up && npm cache clear --drive

# copy remaining recordsdata
COPY --chown=node:node . .

# expose port on the host

# software launch command
CMD [ "node", "./index.js" ]

This defines the steps required to put in and execute your app. Observe that package deal.json is copied to the picture, then npm set up is run earlier than copying the remaining recordsdata. That is extra environment friendly than copying all recordsdata without delay, as a result of Docker creates a picture layer at each command. In case your software recordsdata (index.js) change, Docker want solely run the ultimate three steps; it doesn’t must npm set up once more.

Optionally, you may add a .dockerignore file. It’s just like .gitignore and stops pointless recordsdata being copied into the picture by COPY . .. For instance:




Construct a Docker picture named easy by coming into the next command (word the . interval on the finish — which denotes you’re utilizing recordsdata within the present listing):

$ docker picture construct -t easy .

The picture ought to construct inside a couple of seconds if the node:lts-alpine Docker picture used above hasn’t been deleted out of your system.

Assuming the construct is profitable, begin a container out of your picture:

$ docker run -it --rm --name easy -p 3000:3000 easy

server listening at http://localhost:3000

The -p 3000:3000 publishes or exposes a <host-port> to a <container-port> so port 3000 in your host PC routes to port 3000 contained in the container.

Open a browser and enter the URL http://localhost:3000/ to see “Good day World!”

Strive including names to the URL — resembling http://localhost:3000/Craig — to see different messages.

Lastly, cease your app working by clicking the cease icon within the Containers tab of Docker Desktop, or enter the next command in one other terminal window:

docker container cease easy

A Higher Docker Improvement Workflow

The method above has some irritating flaws:

  • Any change to your code (in index.js) requires you to cease the container, rebuild the picture, restart the container, and retest.

  • You’ll be able to’t connect a Node.js debugger such because the one obtainable in VS Code.

Docker can enhance your growth workflow by retaining the present, production-level picture, however working a container with overrides with a view to do the next:

  • Set surroundings variables resembling NODE_ENV to growth.

  • Mount the native listing into the container.

  • Begin the app with npm run debug. This runs node --watch --inspect= index.js, which restarts the app when recordsdata change (new in Node.js 18) and begins the debugger with requests permitted from outdoors the container.

  • Exposes app port 3000 and debugger port 9229 to the host.

You are able to do this with one lengthy docker run command, however I desire to make use of Docker Compose. It’s put in with Docker Desktop and is commonly used to begin a couple of container. Create a brand new file named docker-compse.yml with the next content material:

model: '3'


      - NODE_ENV=growth
      context: ./
      dockerfile: Dockerfile
    container_name: easy
      - ./:/dwelling/node/app
      - "3000:3000"
      - "9229:9229"
    command: /bin/sh -c 'npm set up && npm run debug'

Begin your app working in debug mode with:

$ docker compose up

[+] Constructing 0.0s
[+] Operating 2/2
 ✔ Community simple_default  Created
 ✔ Container easy        Created
Attaching to easy
easy  |
easy  | updated, audited 63 packages in 481ms
easy  |
easy  | > [email protected] debug
easy  | > node --watch --inspect= index.js
easy  |
easy  | Debugger listening on ws://
easy  | For assist, see:
easy  | server listening at http://localhost:3000

Observe that older variations of Docker Compose are Python scripts run utilizing docker-compose. Newer variations have Compose performance built-in into the principle executable, so it’s run with docker compose.

Dwell software restarts

Open index.js, make a change (such because the string on line 14), and save the file to see the appliance routinely restart:

easy  | Restarting 'index.js'
easy  | Debugger listening on ws://
easy  | For assist, see:
easy  | server listening at http://localhost:3000

Open or refresh your browser at https://localhost:3000/ to view the replace.

Debug with VS Code

Open the VS Code Run and Debug panel and click on create a launch.json file.

VS Code Run and Debug pane

Select Node.js within the dropdown and a .vscode/launch.json file is created and opened within the editor. Add the next code which attaches the debugger to the working container:

  "model": "0.2.0",
  "configurations": [
      "type": "node",
      "request": "attach",
      "name": "Attach to Container",
      "address": "localhost",
      "port": 9229,
      "localRoot": "${workspaceFolder}",
      "remoteRoot": "/home/node/app",
      "skipFiles": [

Save the file then click on Connect to Container on the high of the Debug pane to begin debugging.

VS Code Run and Debug

A debugging toolbar seems. Swap to index.js and add a breakpoint to line 14 by clicking the gutter to indicate a crimson dot.

set breakpoint in VS Code

Refresh https://localhost:3000/ in your browser and VS Code will halt execution on the breakpoint and present the state of all software variables. Click on an icon on the debugging toolbar to proceed working, step by means of the code, or disconnect the debugger.

Cease the container

Cease the working container by opening one other terminal. cd to the appliance listing, and enter:

docker compose down


Whereas Docker requires some preliminary set-up time, the long-term advantages of sturdy, distributable code greater than outweigh the trouble. Docker turns into invaluable whenever you add additional dependencies resembling databases.

This tutorial explains the fundamentals of working Node.js apps in Docker containers. To delve additional, take into account these Pylogix sources: