Difficulty: beginner
Estimated Time: 30-45 minutes

In this tutorial, you will learn the basic Docker commands and how to use Docker to run a single container from an existing image.

Docker tutorial

Step 1 of 5

Step 1 - Run your first container

First, lets run a single container from the command line as follows:

docker run hello-world

Docker downloaded an image of the container hello-world, started the container, ran a single command ("hello") and terminated the container. Lets try to understand what happenned.

When the Docker engine received the command, it checked locally if the container image hello-world existed. Since it did not exist, it internally triggerred an action to pull the image. For reference, you can manually trigger image pulls using docker pull hello-world. It then ran the image with the default command (specified when the image is build). This started a new container and ran the default command. Once the command completed, it exited the container.

You can change the status of your container by running

docker ps

You will NOT see any container because your container has existed. To list exited and running containers, run docker ps -a.

You can also check which images are present on your local system by running:

docker images

Now let us dissect this image. The container image hello-world is hosted at DockerHub hello-world page. This image has the following Dockerfile:

FROM scratch COPY hello / CMD ["/hello"]

You can find the actual source here .

Lets start at the bottom and work our way up this file. The CMD is specifying that when this container is run, without a command specified, it runs the command /hello. How did /hello get there? It was copied in using the COPY command. The FROM command specifies that this container was built using scratch which is a special image for building brand new images. Note: Most image you will work with will NOT be built from scratch but build from a layer such as ubuntu or coreos.

If you question where the fille hello was copied from, it was copied from the host where the image was being built. Hello must be in the folder from where docker build was called at the time the image was built. You will soon learn how to build your own images.

What happens when you run the container with a non-default command? docker run hello-world ls

This command fails because ls is a not a known command inside this container. The image hello-world has one and only one file, hello and hence it does not support running any other commands.