Building non-containers with Docker and VS Code

In this post:

  • example configuration
  • command line breakdowns
  • links to relevant documentation

I recently set up containerised builds for my website [It's not quite ready yet.] and thought I'd share the configuration for others to use as reference.

💁‍♂️ Note that I'm using Docker mainly to avoid installing tooling globally. If this isn't the case for you, then a different build strategy will likely be better.

Additionally, some command lines will contain placeholders with example content {EX:like this} and optional segments [OPT:like this]. You will have to at least remove the respective parentheses and EX: or OPT: to make them work.


    // See
    // for the documentation about the tasks.json format¹
    "version": "2.0.0",
    "tasks": [
            "label": "Create {EX:target/bundle/schichler-dev}/",
            "type": "shell",
            "command": "mkdir --parents {EX:target/bundle/schichler-dev}",
            "windows": {
                "command": "if not exist {EX:target/bundle/schichler-dev}/NUL mkdir {EX:target\\bundle\\schichler-dev}"
            "label": "Build {EX:schichler-dev}",
            "dependsOn": [
                "Create {EX:target/bundle/schichler-dev}/"
            "type": "shell",
            "command": "docker build -t {EX:schichler-dev} -f {EX:schichler-dev/Dockerfile} {EX:.} && docker run [OPT:--read-only] --mount type=bind,source=${workspaceFolder}{EX:/target/bundle/schichler-dev},destination=/mnt/target --rm {EX:schichler-dev}",
            // The task group shown by Tasks: Run Build Task.
            "group": "build",
            "presentation": {
                // Automatically show the problems panel if any problems are matched.
                // The default here is "never".
                "revealProblems": "onProblem"
            // Prevents Code's prompt whether to show output.
            // This was added automatically when I selected never to.
            // You can add problem matchers² to make Code recognise
            "problemMatcher": []

¹ Integrate with External Tools via Tasks; comment from default tasks.json.
² See # Processing task output with problem matchers.

This creates the following entry in the Tasks: Run Build Task command menu, by default bound to Ctrl + Shift + B:
...which runs the following shell commands in dependent sequence:

docker build -t {EX:schichler-dev} -f {EX:schichler-dev/Dockerfile} {EX:.}
docker run [OPT:--read-only] --mount type=bind,source=${workspaceFolder}{EX:/target},destination=/mnt/target --rm {EX:schichler-dev}

In my case:

  1. Make the directory (mkdir) path (--parents) target/bundle/schichler-dev, if it doesn't exist yet (--parents).
    💁‍♂️ Windows requires special handling here, since Windows's MKDIR will error if the directory already exists, isn't configurable in that regard, and also doesn't support / as path separator.
    CMD /E:ON /C makes sure command extensions are on (default since 2000/XP) so we can create the entire path at once.
    if not exist target/bundle/schichler-dev/NUL makes sure target/bundle/schichler-dev doesn't exist as a directory already, by checking for the special file NUL within it.

    1. Build a Docker image and tag (-t) it as schichler-dev(:latest).
      Use the Docker file (-f) located at schichler-dev/Dockerfile³ and use .⁴ as context root.
    2. Run the Docker image tagged schichler-dev with its internal file system read-only (--read-only)⁵, while mounting (--mount) ${workspaceFolder}/target/bundle/schichler-dev⁶ mutably inside the container as /mnt/target. Remove (--rm) the container instance afterwards.

³ You don't need to specify this for a Dockerfile in the context root.
⁴ The folder opened in Code is the working directory for the command.
⁵ This isn't strictly necessary, but Docker may be able to start the container a little faster if it has a matching optimisation.
⁶ Full paths are required here.
💁‍♂️ Code handily expands ${workspaceFolder} to what we need. Show the suggestions (default: Ctrl + Space) within the "command" parameter's value (but only before the first such expansion, it seems) for a list of other values that can be interpolated.


End your (Unix) Dockerfile with:

CMD rm -fr /mnt/target/* \
    && cp -vr --no-target-directory {EX:bundle} /mnt/target

This in my case:

  1. Removes (rm), recursively (-r), all files and directories (*) inside the mounted host directory.

  2. Copies (cp), recursively (-r), the contents of (--no-target-directory) my build directory inside the container (bundle) into the mounted host directory visible at /mnt/target inside the container.
    💁‍♂️ Instead of writing --no-target-directory, you could append /* to the source directory to use shell expansion. I don't know whether this makes a practical difference.

Running the Task

You can now run the build task by pressing Ctrl + Shift + B and then Enter.

Code should show the output of the command in a new task terminal window.

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