In my last project, the UI team decided not to host its angular app in Docker…

I started looking into it, as probably for other projects this will be necessary.

Things I need to have:

  1. Not need to rebuild the world every time. npm i usually takes too long.
  2. Be able to edit code and see it changed in the browser.
  3. Hit my APIs seamlessly. bonus point if I don’t need to change my env, as I want to have a really easy to set up dev environment
  4. be able to access my app from my localhost, and my local browsers

Nice things to have

  1. Run unit tests inside the container (or separate container) using ng test.
  2. Have a deployment Container with the angular AOT compilation.
  3. Multi-platform (win, mac, linux)

The proposed solution

In order to get this done, I created some docker files inside my project, that will drive the creation and deployment of the container.

Build the container

I created a Dockerfile just like this:

FROM node:12.2.0
ENV PATH /myApp/node_modules/.bin:$PATH

COPY package.json /myApp/package.json
RUN npm install -g @angular/cli@7.3.9
RUN npm install

COPY . /myApp
CMD ng serve --watch=true --host=

And the following .dockerIgnore


As Jack the Ripper would say: Lets take this piece by piece.

I am starting with a node V.12 docker container, then I set my work dir to myApp, and add the node_modules/.bin to the path.

Then I copy the packake.json file to the container, in the myApp dir and run npm install to install first the angular CLI and then the app dependencies. I do this here so I can take advantage of Docker’s build cache.

Then I copy all the content of myApp to the /myApp directory, and run the serve command establishing the host as, otherwise it would be localhost, and I don’t think this would work when I expose the ports. I also add the --watch=true flag so changes in the code will trigger new angular build. This will allow me to see real-time in the browser changes that I make in the code, without having to manually trigger a container build. (more on this later)

I set the .dockerignore with the node_modules and .git so these heavy dirs don’t make their way to the container.

Run the container

For running the container, I created a docker-compose file like this:

version: '3.4'

    image: ${DOCKER_REGISTRY}ng
      context: ./
      dockerfile: ./Dockerfile
      - 4200:4200
      - ./src:/myApp/src
      - node_modules:/myApp/node_modules

First I establish an anonymous volume where the node_modules will be stored. I do this so when recreating the container I don’t lose them. Then in the services, I establish the image name, the Dockerfile to use, expose the 4200 port and set the volumes I will use:

  • The first one will map my src dir to the containers src dir, so I don’t need to change the files inside the container, I can do that from the exterior.
  • The second maps the node_modules to the anonymous volume so they get persisted when the container stops.

The results

Well… mixed results: the container gets created, and the node modules installed alright; the app gets built and server fine. I can check #1, #3 and #4, but #2 is not working… I edit my file and the container does not see it changed 😒…

More investigation

So, I found a couple of github issues that state that this is a docker for windows known issue. This is a bummer. But wait! I have a WSL2 Ubuntu on windows distro!! (pretty awesome I must say). I also installed the latest edge Docker for windows that will use WSL2 instead of a hyper-V VM So, I copy the project into my Linux instance and rebuild everything from bash and do docker-compose build && docker-compose up… then I modify the files in my Linux (use VS code remote WSL to do that) and VOILA! 😎 changes in my code get tracked down in my container and the code is rebuilt! So I can sorta check #2 as well, and #3 from nice-to-have! I know this comes with a big payload, as you need

  • Windows 10 Insiders (slow ring)
  • WSL upgraded to V2
  • Docker Edge Channel, with the experimental Docker for WSL2 Engine turned on.

But this will be out in the open really soon and from where I stand all is working really well!!

I will try to get the other 2 missing points and will post my results.