How it works

The remote container extension uses the files in the .devcontainer folder, namely devcontainer.json and an optional Dockerfile or docker-compose.yml, to create your dev containers.

First your image is built from the supplied Docker file or image name. Then a container is created and started using some of the settings in the devcontainer.json. Finally your Visual Studio Code environment is installed and configured again according to settings in the devcontainer.json.

Once all of this is done, your local copy of Visual Studio Code connects to the Visual Studio Code Server running inside of your new dev container.


The devcontainer.json is basically a config file that determines how your dev container gets built and started.

  "name": "Node.js Sample",
  "dockerFile": "Dockerfile",
  "appPort": 3000,
  "extensions": ["dbaeumer.vscode-eslint"],
  "settings": {
    "": "/bin/bash"
  "postCreateCommand": "yarn install",
  // Comment out the next line to run as root instead. Linux users, update
  // Dockerfile with your user's UID/GID if not 1000.
  "runArgs": ["-u", "node"]

The above example is taken from the vscode-remote-try-node repo we used in the tutorial.

Option Description
dockerfile Relative path to a Dockerfile that you wish to use as your image.
appPort A port or array of ports that should be made available locally when the container is running
extensions An array of extension IDs that specify the extensions that should be installed inside the container when it is created.
settings Adds default settings.json values into a container/machine specific settings file.
postCreateCommand A command string or list of command arguments to run after the container is created.
runArgs An array of Docker CLI arguments that should be used when running the container.

Full list of devcontainer.json options.

Next steps

This has been a brief overview of what is possible using dev containers. To learn about other scenarios or learn more about containerized development, checkout the Developing inside Containers documentation.

I'm Done!