What's the difference between Docker Compose vs. Dockerfile ?

Better Stack Team
Updated on April 7, 2023

Docker Compose and Dockerfile are two tools that are often used together in Docker-based application development, but they serve different purposes.


Dockerfile is used to define the environment and configuration for a single Docker container. It is a text file that contains a series of instructions for building a Docker image. Dockerfile instructions can be used to install software, set environment variables, copy files, and more. Dockerfile is used to create a Docker image, which can then be used to create and run one or more Docker containers.

Docker Compose

On the other hand, Docker Compose is used to define and run multi-container Docker applications. Docker Compose is a tool that allows you to define a set of related Docker containers that work together to run an application. Docker Compose uses a YAML file to define the configuration for each container, including the Docker image, environment variables, ports, volumes, and more. With Docker Compose, you can start, stop, and manage multiple containers at once, making it easier to run complex applications.

In summary, Dockerfile is used to define a single container, while Docker Compose is used to define and manage multiple containers that work together to run an application. Dockerfile is used to build a Docker image, while Docker Compose is used to run a set of related containers as a single application.

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