Photo by Elena Rouame on Unsplash

Photo by Elena Rouame on Unsplash

Graphical management solutions for Docker

Starter Tools

Article from ADMIN 74/2023
Thanks to graphical management interfaces for Docker, even newcomers can set up container environments without extended training.

In professional IT infrastructures, Docker-based container solutions are becoming increasingly popular compared with traditional virtualization setups. The advantages that Docker containers offer are obvious: By sharing the host system's kernel (instead of each instance requiring a complete operating system), containers are compact and easier to configure compared with typical virtual machines. Moreover, container solutions offer significantly better scaling than virtual machines. They are easy to set up thanks to the encapsulated images; multiple Docker applications can run simultaneously on a single operating system instance. Encapsulating the individual containers also makes it possible to allocate host system resources to them individually.

However, as container systems become more complex, they also become more difficult to manage. Graphical interfaces for Docker containers promise to simplify the handling of these systems, offering the benefits of Docker directly to users in small organizations and even to home users who are not afraid to take the plunge. In this article, I take a closer look at the most important graphical tools for Docker management.


For graphical front ends to support flexible Docker container management, they need to offer some additional functions besides plain vanilla Docker system management. Ideally, the front end will be a web-based application, so you can use it on remote machines, too. You will also want the front end to provide statistical information that helps you allocate system resources in a granular way. This information can help with troubleshooting tasks, as well, assuming the logfiles can be viewed on the front end. Also, you need an overview of all the existing containers, regardless of their current operating status.

Docker Desktop

The Docker website offers Docker Desktop [1], which emerged from the Kitematic tool, as the official graphical front end. The cross-platform graphical management solution for Docker environments uses a virtual machine as a runtime environment on Linux. It creates its own Docker context, so containers and images previously set up with the Linux Docker Engine are not shown in Docker Desktop.

The tool exclusively runs on 64-bit operating systems, requiring systemd along with KVM and Qemu version 5.2 or newer for virtualization. It needs at least 4GB of RAM, and the developers recommend KDE Plasma, Gnome, or Mate as the desktop environment. Because Docker Desktop integrates numerous other applications, including Kubernetes, Docker Compose, and the Docker Engine, you can quickly set up an up-to-date Docker environment without time-consuming individual installation work. The excellent documentation [2] explains all the important installation steps and describes in detail how to use the graphical front end.

Home users or small businesses can use the package for free, but larger organizations need to purchase a license [3]. The commercial license also includes special features such as the Hardened Docker Desktop, which gives security-aware administrators special rights management for users and runs the containers in separate compartmentalized environments. These functions are not available in the community variant.


When you install the system, it makes sense to keep to the official instructions. Once you have done all the preliminary work mentioned there, download and install the Docker Desktop package, which comes in at just south of 500MB. After doing so, you will find a launcher in your desktop environment's menu system. A small Docker icon in the desktop's system tray reveals a context menu that gives you direct access to numerous functions.

Docker Desktop is not a web-based application; it is limited to the host computer system. Clicking on the launcher in the menu structure opens a clear-cut dashboard. Confirm the license terms to see a list of Docker containers for the Redis and PostgreSQL databases and the NGINX web server for demonstration purposes (Figure 1). On the left, you will find the Containers , Images , Volumes , and Dev Environments tabs in a vertical control bar. You can display the current status indicators of the respective components, including the memory requirements for images and volumes.

Figure 1: Docker Desktop offers immediate entry to the world of containers.

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