Connect to multiple containers

Currently you can only connect to one container per Visual Studio Code window. However, you can spin up multiple VS Code windows to attach to them.

If you'd prefer to use devcontainer.json instead and are using Docker Compose, you can create separate devcontainer.json files for each service in your source tree that point to a common docker-compose.yml.

To see how this works, consider this example source tree:

📁 project-root
    📁 .git
    📁 container1-src
        📄 .devcontainer.json
        📄 hello.go
    📁 container2-src
        📄 .devcontainer.json
        📄 hello.js
    📄 docker-compose.yml

The location of the .git folder is important, since we will need to ensure the containers can see this path for source control to work properly.

Next, assume the docker-compose.yml in the root is as follows:

version: '3'
services:
  container-1:
    image: ubuntu:bionic
    volumes:
      # Mount the root folder that contains .git
      - .:/workspace:cached
    command: /bin/sh -c "while sleep 1000; do :; done"
    links:
      - container-2
    # ...

  container-2:
    image: ubuntu:bionic
    volumes:
      # Mount the root folder that contains .git
      - .:/workspace:cached
    command: /bin/sh -c "while sleep 1000; do :; done"
    # ...

You can then set up container1-src/.devcontainer.json for Go development as follows:

{
  "name": "Container 1",
  "dockerComposeFile": ["../docker-compose.yml"],
  "service": "container-1",
  "shutdownAction": "none",
  "extensions": ["golang.go"],
  // Open the sub-folder with the source code
  "workspaceFolder": "/workspace/container1-src"
}

Next, you can set up container2-src/.devcontainer.json for Node.js development by changing workspaceFolder and installing Node.js extensions:

{
  "name": "Container 2",
  "dockerComposeFile": ["../docker-compose.yml"],
  "service": "container-2",
  "shutdownAction": "none",
  "extensions": ["dbaeumer.vscode-eslint"],
  "workspaceFolder": "/workspace/container2-src"
}

The "shutdownAction":"none" in the devcontainer.json files is optional, but will leave the containers running when VS Code closes -- which prevents you from accidentally shutting down both containers by closing one window.

To connect to both:

  1. Run Remote-Containers: Open Folder in Container... from the Command Palette (F1) and select the container1-src folder.
  2. VS Code will then start up both containers, connect this window to service container-1, and install the Go extension.
  3. Next, start up a new window using File > New Window.
  4. In the new window, run Remote-Containers: Open Folder in Container... from the Command Palette (F1) and select the container2-src folder.
  5. Since the services are already running, VS Code will then connect to container-2 and install the ESLint extension.

You can now interact with both containers at once from separate windows.

Extending a Docker Compose file when connecting to two containers

If you want to extend your Docker Compose file for development, you should use a single docker-compose.yml that extends both services (as needed) and is referenced in both .devcontainer.json files.

For example, consider this docker-compose.devcontainer.yml file:

version: '3'
services:
  container-1:
    volumes:
      - ~:~/local-home-folder:cached # Additional bind mount
    # ...

  container-2:
    volumes:
      - ~/some-folder:~/some-folder:cached # Additional bind mount
    # ...

Both .devcontainer.json files would be updated as follows:

"dockerComposeFile": [
  "../docker-compose.yml",
  "../docker-compose.devcontainer.yml",
]

This list of compose files is used when starting the containers, so referencing different files in each .devcontainer.json can have unexpected results.