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A container for a cross-platform and consistent Frontend-Development tooling platform based on node/npm.

Usage (more)

The container is intended to be used for the following two cases:

(1) Running a specific version of node or npm without local installation (e.g. npm init)

Directly start the container to run a specific set of npm/node/yarn version without the need to install these locally on your system. Map the current folder with -v .... Choose the version according to the available tags.

Example: To start a bash with npm 3.10.10 in your current directory you can run the following command.

docker container run -it --rm -v ${pwd}:/usr/src/app softaware/webdev:alpine-6.10.3

Now you can run whatever npm/node/yarn commands you want. Let's say you want to setup a project, just run npm init in the container. Afterwards please continue with Adding the container to an existing project using the same node version.

(2) Adding the container to an existing project

The container is way more powerful if it is added as a versioned dependency to an existing project.

  1. As shown in the examples create a script for your shell that starts the container you want to use.
  2. Add this script to your repository.
  3. Now you can start your development environment with <scriptname> ENTER and you are good to go.
  4. Don't forget to document the name and the usage of the script in your README to spread your knowledge.

Additional Information

  • The container is designed to use your project folder as a mapped volume. This enables some of your team members not to use the container if the host npm/node versions match.
  • If your Container OS is different than your Host OS delete the node_modules-directory before starting the container. (more info)
  • Be aware of your IDE automatically running npm install and messing up your node_modules! (e.g. Visual Studio)
  • How to enable file change detection.
  • The root directory of your application in the container is /usr/src/app.
  • Try to override the container's startup command with an npm command. As an example you can automatically run npm start in the container by running the container with ... softaware/webdev:<linux>-<version> npm start in your shell script.
  • Previous versions of the container contained exposed ports. Because exposing a port is not necessary for publishing it (docker container run -p <host:container>), these do not exist anymore. Just choose your desired version and publish the port of the web server you use with -p <...>.

Versions¹ and Sizes

Node² Latest Version Alpine Debian
4 4.8.3
6 6.11.0
7 7.10.0
8 8.9.4
9 9.7.1
10 10.19.0

¹ You can see all available versions on Docker Hub. The images are tagged according to the npm/node releases like node releases and node-docker tags.

² more info here: Node.js LTS Working Group


We recommend to use the alpine image because of the small image size! Because alpine linux uses musl libc instead of glibc you may run into problems. More information can be found here. We had an issue with Kendo UI and node-sass on alpine. This is the reason why debian-x.x.x exists.


In addition to the alpine image a full debian image based on the full official Docker node image is available.


Developing multiple Web-Applications (especially old-ones) can get really tricky due to different npm/node-versions. Solutions like nvm are not cross-platform and introduce an implicit depencency. We thought that a container would allow us to commit our development environment with our source-code and explicitly define the used versions. Thanks to the great official node Docker image: library/node, this task was not too hard to accomplish.

Daniel Demmel released an excellent article on smashingmagazine where he mentions even more reasons and a bit of the history why containerizing your webdevelopment environment makes perfectly sense. A latest-tag is omitted on purpose, because the idea of this container is to exactly specify the node and npm version you want to use. A few problems we faced and their solutions are described in caveats.

What it does?

The Dockerfile extends node:x.x.x-alpine (same with debian) adds bash, modifies it's prompt slightly and extends the path to execute devDependencies as executables. Additionally npm-completion is enabled.

The main advantage is the abstraction of the build-toolchain into a container, thus providing a consistent and reproducible developer experience across systems and platforms.


Specifying node and npm versions explicitly

To make sure that only specific versions of node and npm are used it is possible to specify the needed versions in package.json. Combined with engine-strict = true in .npmrc node complains if these versions are not compatible and prevents you from version incompatibilities.

// package.json
"engines": {
  "node": "7.8.0", // or "7.x"; "5 - 7"; ">= 5"; more info:
  "npm": "4.2.0"
// .npmrc
engine-strict = true


Shared node_modules folder

We decided to share the node_modules folder too, because otherwise IDEs like VS Code do not get Type-Informations for Autocomplete if the installed node_modules are encapsulated by the container. As a result you may have problems if native node modules are used and your Host-OS is not Linux when you try to start the application outside of the container.

Angular CLI/Webpack Live Reloading (Windows)

Making the webserver of Angular CLI (or any other Webpack-based project) working, requires you to set the host-setting in .angular-cli.json to Now the webserver binds to every available network interface, thus enabling access to it from the host. Because of a problem with inotify file changes do not reflect in the container for mounted directories on Windows. This can be solved by enabling polling with setting poll in .angular-cli.json like the following snippet shows:

// .angular-cli.json
"defaults": {
  "poll": 3000,
  "serve": {
    "host": ""

The same problems may arise if you are using gulp or webpack directly!


The containers are created through create-image.ps1. Please update the version information in this README according to the new versions.

IMPORTANT: Make sure that all the files used in the container (.bashrc,, ...) use LF as their line-ending. Otherwise you will get really ugly errors at container runtime!


// Parameters
[1] node-version        # node-version according to

// Flags
-silent    # omit Docker-Output only show success and error messages
-publish   # publish the created Image to Docker-Hub; `docker login` necessary


# create only
> .\create-image.ps1 4.8.3 -silent
softaware/webdev:alpine-4.8.3 created successfully
softaware/webdev:debian-4.8.3 created successfully

# create and publish
> .\create-image.ps1 8.0.0 -silent -publish
softaware/webdev:alpine-8.0.0 created successfully
softaware/webdev:alpine-8.0.0 published successfully
softaware/webdev:debian-8.0.0 created successfully
softaware/webdev:debian-8.0.0 published successfully


Docker Container for platform-independent Frontend-Development








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