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moodle-docker: Docker Containers for Moodle Developers

moodle-docker CI

This repository contains Docker configuration aimed at Moodle developers and testers to easily deploy a testing environment for Moodle.


  • All supported database servers (PostgreSQL, MySQL, Micosoft SQL Server, Oracle XE)
  • Behat/Selenium configuration for Firefox and Chrome
  • Catch-all smtp server and web interface to messages using Mailpit
  • All PHP Extensions enabled configured for external services (e.g. solr, ldap)
  • All supported PHP versions
  • Zero-configuration approach
  • Backed by automated tests


  • Docker and Docker Compose installed if your Docker CLI version does not support docker compose command.
  • It's recommended to always run the latest versions of each, but at the minimum Docker v20.10.15 and Docker Compose v2.5.0 should be used.
  • 3.25GB of RAM (if you choose Microsoft SQL Server as db server)

Quick start

# Change ./moodle to your /path/to/moodle if you already have it checked out

# Choose a db server (Currently supported: pgsql, mariadb, mysql, mssql, oracle)
export MOODLE_DOCKER_DB=pgsql

# Get Moodle code, you could select another version branch (skip this if you already got the code)

# Ensure customized config.php for the Docker containers is in place
cp config.docker-template.php $MOODLE_DOCKER_WWWROOT/config.php

# Start up containers
bin/moodle-docker-compose up -d

# Wait for DB to come up (important for oracle/mssql)

# Work with the containers (see below)
# [..]

# Shut down and destroy containers
bin/moodle-docker-compose down

Run several Moodle instances

By default, the script will load a single instance. If you want to run two or more different versions of Moodle at the same time, you have to add this environment variable prior running any of the steps at Quick start:

# Define a project name; it will appear as a prefix on container names.
export COMPOSE_PROJECT_NAME=moodle34

# Use a different public web port from those already taken

# [..] run all "Quick steps" now

Having set up several Moodle instances, you need to have set up the environment variable COMPOSE_PROJECT_NAME to just refer to the instance you expect to. See envvars to see more about docker-compose environment variables.

Use containers for running behat tests

# Initialize behat environment
bin/moodle-docker-compose exec webserver php admin/tool/behat/cli/init.php
# [..]

# Run behat tests
bin/moodle-docker-compose exec -u www-data webserver php admin/tool/behat/cli/run.php --tags=@auth_manual
Running single behat site:
Moodle 3.4dev (Build: 20171006), 33a3ec7c9378e64c6f15c688a3c68a39114aa29d
Php: 7.1.9, pgsql: 9.6.5, OS: Linux 4.9.49-moby x86_64
Server OS "Linux", Browser: "firefox"
Started at 25-05-2017, 19:04

2 scenarios (2 passed)
15 steps (15 passed)
1m35.32s (41.60Mb)


  • The behat faildump directory is exposed at http://localhost:8000/_/faildumps/.
  • Use MOODLE_DOCKER_BROWSER to switch the browser you want to run the test against. You need to recreate your containers using bin/moodle-docker-compose as described below, if you change it.

Use containers for running phpunit tests

# Initialize phpunit environment
bin/moodle-docker-compose exec webserver php admin/tool/phpunit/cli/init.php
# [..]

# Run phpunit tests

bin/moodle-docker-compose exec webserver vendor/bin/phpunit auth/manual/tests/manual_test.php
Moodle 4.0.4 (Build: 20220912), ef7a51dcb8e805a6889974b04d3154ba8bd874f2
Php: 7.3.33, pgsql: 11.15 (Debian 11.15-1.pgdg90+1), OS: Linux 5.10.0-11-amd64 x86_64
PHPUnit 9.5.13 by Sebastian Bergmann and contributors.

..                                                                  2 / 2 (100%)

Time: 00:00.304, Memory: 72.50 MB

OK (2 tests, 7 assertions)


  • If you want to run tests with code coverage reports:
# Build component configuration
bin/moodle-docker-compose exec webserver php admin/tool/phpunit/cli/util.php --buildcomponentconfigs
# Execute tests for component
bin/moodle-docker-compose exec webserver php -d pcov.enabled=1 -d vendor/bin/phpunit --configuration reportbuilder --coverage-text

Use containers for manual testing

# Initialize Moodle database for manual testing
bin/moodle-docker-compose exec webserver php admin/cli/install_database.php --agree-license --fullname="Docker moodle" --shortname="docker_moodle" --summary="Docker moodle site" --adminpass="test" --adminemail=""


  • Moodle is configured to listen on http://localhost:8000/.
  • Mailpit is listening on http://localhost:8000/_/mail to view emails which Moodle has sent out.
  • The admin username you need to use for logging in is admin by default. You can customize it by passing --adminuser='myusername'
  • During manual testing, if you are facing that your Moodle site is logging you off continuously, putting the correct credentials, clean all cookies for your Moodle site URL (usually localhost) from your browser. More info.

Use containers for running behat tests for the Moodle App

In order to run Behat tests for the Moodle App, you need to install the local_moodleappbehat plugin in your Moodle site. Everything else should be the same as running standard Behat tests for Moodle. Make sure to filter tests using the @app tag.

The Behat tests will be run against a container serving the mobile application, you have two options here:

  1. Use a Docker image that includes the application code. You need to specify the MOODLE_DOCKER_APP_VERSION env variable and the moodlehq/moodleapp image will be downloaded from Docker Hub. You can read about the available images in Moodle App Docker Images (for Behat, you'll want to run the ones with the -test suffix).

  2. Use a local copy of the application code and serve it through Docker, similar to how the Moodle site is being served. Set the MOODLE_DOCKER_APP_PATH env variable to the codebase in you file system. This will assume that you've already initialized the app calling npm install locally.

For both options, you also need to set MOODLE_DOCKER_BROWSER to "chrome".

# Install local_moodleappbehat plugin
git clone "$MOODLE_DOCKER_WWWROOT/local/moodleappbehat"

# Initialize behat environment
bin/moodle-docker-compose exec webserver php admin/tool/behat/cli/init.php
# (you should see "Configured app tests for version X.X.X" here)

# Run behat tests
bin/moodle-docker-compose exec -u www-data webserver php admin/tool/behat/cli/run.php --tags="@app&&@mod_login"
Running single behat site:
Moodle 4.0dev (Build: 20200615), a2b286ce176fbe361f0889abc8f30f043cd664ae
Php: 7.2.30, pgsql: 11.8 (Debian 11.8-1.pgdg90+1), OS: Linux 5.3.0-61-generic x86_64
Server OS "Linux", Browser: "chrome"
Browser specific fixes have been applied. See
Started at 13-07-2020, 18:34

4 scenarios (4 passed)
69 steps (69 passed)
3m3.17s (55.02Mb)

If you are going with the second option, this can be used for local development of the Moodle App, given that the moodleapp container serves the app on the local 8100 port. However, this is intended to run Behat tests that require interacting with a local Moodle environment. Normal development should be easier calling npm start in the host system.

By all means, if you don't want to have npm installed locally you can go full Docker executing the following commands before starting the containers:

docker run --volume $MOODLE_DOCKER_APP_PATH:/app --workdir /app bash -c "npm install"

You can learn more about writing tests for the app in Acceptance testing for the Moodle App.

Using VNC to view behat tests

If MOODLE_DOCKER_SELENIUM_VNC_PORT is defined, selenium will expose a VNC session on the port specified so behat tests can be viewed in progress.

For example, if you set MOODLE_DOCKER_SELENIUM_VNC_PORT to 5900..

  1. Download a VNC client:
  2. With the containers running, enter as the port in VNC Viewer. You will be prompted for a password. The password is 'secret'.
  3. You should be able to see an empty Desktop. When you run any Javascript requiring Behat tests (e.g. those tagged @javascript) a browser will popup and you will see the tests execute.

Stop and restart containers

bin/moodle-docker-compose down which was used above after using the containers stops and destroys the containers. If you want to use your containers continuously for manual testing or development without starting them up from scratch everytime you use them, you can also just stop without destroying them. With this approach, you can restart your containers sometime later, they will keep their data and won't be destroyed completely until you run bin/moodle-docker-compose down.

# Stop containers
bin/moodle-docker-compose stop

# Restart containers
bin/moodle-docker-compose start

Environment variables

You can change the configuration of the docker images by setting various environment variables before calling bin/moodle-docker-compose up. When you change them, use bin/moodle-docker-compose down && bin/moodle-docker-compose up -d to recreate your environment.

Environment Variable Mandatory Allowed values Default value Notes
MOODLE_DOCKER_DB yes pgsql, mariadb, mysql, mssql, oracle none The database server to run against
MOODLE_DOCKER_WWWROOT yes path on your file system none The path to the Moodle codebase you intend to test
MOODLE_DOCKER_DB_VERSION no Docker tag - see relevant database page on docker-hub mysql: 8.0
pgsql: 13
mariadb: 10.7
mssql: 2017-latest
oracle: 21
The database server docker image tag
MOODLE_DOCKER_PHP_VERSION no 8.1, 8.0, 7.4, 7.3, 7.2, 7.1, 7.0, 5.6 8.1 The php version to use
MOODLE_DOCKER_BROWSER no firefox, chrome, firefox:<tag>, chrome:<tag> firefox:3 The browser to run Behat against. Supports a colon notation to specify a specific Selenium docker image version to use. e.g. firefox:2.53.1 can be used to run with older versions of Moodle (<3.5)
MOODLE_DOCKER_PHPUNIT_EXTERNAL_SERVICES no any value not set If set, dependencies for memcached, redis, solr, and openldap are added
MOODLE_DOCKER_BBB_MOCK no any value not set If set the BigBlueButton mock image is started and configured
MOODLE_DOCKER_MATRIX_MOCK no any value not set If set the Matrix mock image is started and configured
MOODLE_DOCKER_BEHAT_FAILDUMP no Path on your file system not set Behat faildumps are already available at http://localhost:8000/_/faildumps/ by default, this allows for mapping a specific filesystem folder to retrieve the faildumps in bulk / automated ways
MOODLE_DOCKER_DB_PORT no any integer value none If you want to bind to any host IP different from the default, you can specify it with the bind_ip:port format ( means bind to all). Username is "moodle" (or "sa" for mssql) and password is "m@0dl3ing".
MOODLE_DOCKER_WEB_HOST no any valid hostname localhost The hostname for web
MOODLE_DOCKER_WEB_PORT no any integer value (or bind_ip:integer) The port number for web. If set to 0, no port is used.
If you want to bind to any host IP different from the default, you can specify it with the bind_ip:port format ( means bind to all)
MOODLE_DOCKER_SELENIUM_VNC_PORT no any integer value (or bind_ip:integer) not set If set, the selenium node will expose a vnc session on the port specified. Similar to MOODLE_DOCKER_WEB_PORT, you can optionally define the host IP to bind to. If you just set the port, VNC binds to
MOODLE_DOCKER_APP_PATH no path on your file system not set If set and the chrome browser is selected, it will start an instance of the Moodle app from your local codebase
MOODLE_DOCKER_APP_VERSION no a valid app docker image version not set If set will start an instance of the Moodle app if the chrome browser is selected

In addition to that, MOODLE_DOCKER_RUNNING=1 env variable is defined and available in the webserver container to flag being run by moodle-docker. Developer can use this to conditionally make changes in config.php. The common case is to load test-specific configuration:

// Load moodle-docker config file if we are in moodle-docker environment
if (getenv('MOODLE_DOCKER_RUNNING')) {
    require_once(__DIR__ . '/config.docker-template.php');

require_once(__DIR__ . '/lib/setup.php'); // Do not edit.

Local customisations

In some situations you may wish to add local customisations, such as including additional containers, or changing existing containers.

This can be accomplished by specifying a local.yml, which will be added in and loaded with the existing yml configuration files automatically. For example:

version: "2"

  # Add the adminer image at the latest tag on port 8080:8080
    image: adminer:latest
    restart: always
      - 8080:8080
      - "db"

  # Modify the webserver image to add another volume:
      - "/opt/data:/opt/data:cached"

Using XDebug for live debugging

The XDebug PHP Extension is not included in this setup and there are reasons not to include it by default.

However, if you want to work with XDebug, especially for live debugging, you can add XDebug to a running webserver container easily:

# Install XDebug extension with PECL
moodle-docker-compose exec webserver pecl install xdebug

# Set some wise setting for live debugging - change this as needed
read -r -d '' conf <<'EOF'
; Settings for Xdebug Docker configuration
xdebug.mode = debug
xdebug.client_host = host.docker.internal
; Some IDEs (eg PHPSTORM, VSCODE) may require configuring an IDE key, uncomment if needed
; xdebug.idekey=MY_FAV_IDE_KEY
moodle-docker-compose exec webserver bash -c "echo '$conf' >> /usr/local/etc/php/conf.d/docker-php-ext-xdebug.ini"

# Enable XDebug extension in Apache and restart the webserver container
moodle-docker-compose exec webserver docker-php-ext-enable xdebug
moodle-docker-compose restart webserver

While setting these XDebug settings depending on your local need, please take special care of the value of xdebug.client_host which is needed to connect from the container to the host. The given value host.docker.internal is a special DNS name for this purpose within Docker for Windows and Docker for Mac. If you are running on another Docker environment, you might want to try the value localhost instead or even set the hostname/IP of the host directly. Please turn off the firewall or open the port used in the xdebug.client_port.

Open the port (9003 is the default one) by using the example command for Linux Ubuntu:

sudo ufw allow 9003

After these commands, XDebug ist enabled and ready to be used in the webserver container. If you want to disable and re-enable XDebug during the lifetime of the webserver container, you can achieve this with these additional commands:

# Disable XDebug extension in Apache and restart the webserver container
moodle-docker-compose exec webserver sed -i 's/^zend_extension=/; zend_extension=/' /usr/local/etc/php/conf.d/docker-php-ext-xdebug.ini
moodle-docker-compose restart webserver

# Enable XDebug extension in Apache and restart the webserver container
moodle-docker-compose exec webserver sed -i 's/^; zend_extension=/zend_extension=/' /usr/local/etc/php/conf.d/docker-php-ext-xdebug.ini
moodle-docker-compose restart webserver

Advanced usage

As can be seen in bin/moodle-docker-compose, this repo is just a series of Docker Compose configurations and light wrapper which make use of companion docker images. Each part is designed to be reusable and you are encouraged to use the docker [compose] commands as needed.

Quick start with Gitpod

Gitpod is a free, cloud-based, development environment providing VS Code and a suitable development environment right in your browser.

When launching a workspace in Gitpod, it will automatically:

  • Clone the Moodle repo into the <workspace>/moodle folder.
  • Initialise the Moodle database.
  • Start the Moodle webserver.

Open in Gitpod

IMPORTANT: Gitpod is an alternative to local development and completely optional. We recommend setting up a local development environment if you plan to contribute regularly.

The Moodle Gitpod template supports the following environment variables:

  • MOODLE_REPOSITORY. The Moodle repository to be cloned. The value should be URL encoded. If left undefined, the default repository is used.
  • MOODLE_BRANCH. The Moodle branch to be cloned. If left undefined, the default branch main is employed.
  • DATAFILE. When specified, this feature URL initializes the Moodle site with essential data. The value should be URL encoded. The content of this file adheres to the Behat generators format for creating testing scenarios.
  • INSTALLADMINER. Add this variable, set to any value, to install adminer.
  • CLONEALL. If not set, a shallow clone is created, truncating the history to reduce the clone size. Set to 1 for a full clone.

For a practical demonstration, launch a Gitpod workspace with the 'main' branch patch for MDL-79912. Simply open the following URL in your web browser (note that MOODLE_REPOSITORY should be URL encoded). The password for the admin user is test:,MOODLE_BRANCH=MDL-79912-main/

To optimize your browsing experience, consider integrating the Tampermonkey extension into your preferred web browser for added benefits. Afterward, install the Gitpod script, which can be accessed via the following URL: Gitpod script. This script efficiently incorporates a button adjacent to each branch within the Moodle tracker, facilitating the effortless initiation of a Gitpod workspace tailored to the corresponding patch for the issue you're currently viewing.

Companion docker images

The following Moodle customised docker images are close companions of this project:


Are extremely welcome!