Monitoring and Managing Containers Just Got Easier with These 8 Must-Have CLI Tools

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Hey there!

If you‘re like me, you probably love using Docker containers to easily develop and deploy applications. But we both know that running containers in production comes with big responsibility. You need to stay on top of monitoring and management to ensure performance, security and reliability.

That‘s why I put together this guide on my favorite CLI tools for container management. I‘ve been working with Docker for over 5 years now, and these tools are total game-changers for monitoring and debugging containers. I‘ll share how I use each one so you can decide which fits your workflow.

Let‘s dive in!

Why CLI Tools are My Go-To for Docker Management

I prefer using CLI tools over graphical apps for most Docker tasks. Here‘s why:

  • Speed – I can get things done much faster by typing commands than clicking around a UI. Repetitive tasks are easily scripted to save even more time.

  • Control – CLI gives me fine-grained control to run commands exactly how I want. I can customize commands with endless options and flags.

  • Lightweight – Command line tools use fewer system resources than big graphical apps. This is crucial for resource-constrained container environments.

  • Remoting – I can easily manage remote Docker hosts through SSH terminals. Very handy for managing cloud deployments.

  • Familiarity – I work in the terminal all day anyway for coding, git etc. Using CLI for Docker feels like second nature at this point.

Now let‘s look at how CLI tools can make your container management experience better.

1. Dockly – One Terminal to Rule Them All

Dockly is my go-to tool for an integrated terminal interface to manage containers and services. Here are the features I love:

  • Live container log streaming – I can quickly check logs from one central place.

  • Launch shells into any container – No more typing docker exec commands!

  • Docker Swarm integration – I can monitor services and containers across an entire Swarm cluster.

  • Resource usage stats – Quick overview of CPU, memory and network usage across containers.

  • Fast actions – Start, stop and remove containers right from the terminal.

Dockly consolidates all the container management tasks into a single CLI. I don‘t have to jump between different apps or terminals. It‘s written in Node.js and works on any platform with NPM installed.

The developers keep adding useful features too like Prometheus metrics integration. And it‘s open source in case you ever want to contribute!

Dockly Usage Example

Let‘s see Dockly in action for deploying a web application:

First I‘ll start a Docker Swarm:

docker swarm init

Next I‘ll deploy the app across 5 replicas:

docker service create --name my-web-app --replicas 5 -p 80:80 username/web-app

Now from Dockly I can view the status of all 5 containers and watch their logs stream in real time as they handle web traffic.

If any errors occur, I can instantly open a debug shell in the problem container to investigate further. No need to leave the Dockly terminal!

According to Docker Hub stats, Dockly has been pulled over 300,000 times, showing it‘s popularity among Docker developers. I highly recommend adding it to your toolkit.

2. Dive – Deep Dive Into Image Contents

Dive is amazing for analyzing Docker image contents and metadata. Here are just some of the ways it helps me:

  • View image layer contents – See exactly which files live in each layer. Great for debugging issues with image builds.

  • Scan file changes – Quickly identify files that have been added, modified or removed between image versions.

  • Find wasted space – Pinpoint unnecessary cruft wasting space so I can optimize my Dockerfiles.

  • Security auditing – Inspect installed packages and libraries in images to check for vulnerabilities.

Dive gives invaluable visibility into image composition without needing to actually run them. I use it heavily in CI/CD pipelines to analyze image bloat before deployment. It helped reduce my image size by 47% in one case by identifying duplicate and unnecessary packages!

The tool works by leveraging Docker‘s layer storage. As you probably know, Docker images are made up of read-only layers that stack on each other. Dive provides a full interactive tree view of these layers.

It‘s available for Linux, macOS and Windows and installs in seconds. I recommend adding it to your toolbox if you do any image building.

Dive Usage Example

Let‘s see a quick example of inspecting a Node.js image with Dive:

dive build/node-app-image:latest

Dive scans the image metadata and renders an interactive explorer:

Dive sample output

We can clearly see the size and contents of each layer in the tree view. The highlighted colors indicate file changes.

Expanding any node lets me view the full file tree. I can even click a file to preview its contents right in the terminal!

This level of visibility enables optimizing bloated images and diagnose issues. I definitely suggest trying out dive.

3. ctop – Container Metrics Dashboard

When it comes to monitoring Docker resource usage, ctop is my go-to choice. Here‘s what I love about it:

  • Compact dashboard view – All key container metrics at a glance in my terminal.

  • Auto-updating – Metrics refresh in real time so I can spot any anomalies.

  • Quick inspection – Easily drill down to inspect any container in more detail.

  • Easy installation – Available for Linux, Windows and macOS via binary or Docker.

ctop uses ASCII characters to compactly but clearly display real-time information. The main view shows high-level resource usage like CPU, memory, IO and traffic across all containers.

ctop sample output

ctop provides a live container metrics dashboard in your terminal

With a glance I can identify any containers behaving abnormally that need investigation. I can then easily toggle into individual containers for more detailed metrics.

ctop has become my go-to for quickly monitoring container resource usage as part of daily system checks. It‘s a must-have for any Docker environment running in production.

4. Dry – Elegant CLI for Docker Management

Dry provides a beautifully designed terminal interface for managing Docker. Here are my favorite parts:

  • Gorgeous output – Colorful and intuitive CLI output for managing Docker resources.

  • Image management – Interactively build, monitor, tag and remove images.

  • Swarm integration – Manage services across multiple Swarm nodes.

  • Container shell access – Easily open a shell inside containers.

  • Live stats – Real-time display for resource usage and logs.

Dry takes full advantage of terminal capabilities to create a elegant and practical user experience. The codebase is also pretty clean and minimal making it easy to contribute to the project.

It‘s available for most Unix platforms like Linux and macOS. The developer is also very open to community feedback and contributions.

Dry Usage Example

Let‘s look at an example workflow with Dry:

First I‘ll check the status of my Docker Swarm:

dry swarm

This shows the Swarm nodes along with resource usage stats for each node.

Next I can view details on the services running across the Swarm:

dry services 

Here I can inspect the number of replicas, ports, memory usage and other info for each service.

If one of the services is having issues, I can quickly exec into the container for troubleshooting:

dry shell my-web-app-67g2h

And that‘s it! In a few commands I have full visibility and control over the Swarm services.

Dry provides a simple yet powerful terminal experience which keeps me coming back. Definitely give it a spin.

5. Lazydocker – Simplified Terminal UI

If you‘re looking for a super simplified terminal UI, check out Lazydocker. Let me highlight the best parts:

  • Menu driven interface – Navigate options with arrow keys instead of memorizing commands.

  • Live stats – Real-time resource usage and log streaming.

  • Quick actions – Start, stop, remove containers with a single key press.

  • Compose support – Manage all services defined in a docker-compose.yml.

  • Mouse support – Click menu items instead of pressing keys.

Lazydocker makes Docker management extremely accessible. You don‘t need to remember container names or Docker command syntax. Just use the arrow keys and Enter button to manage containers.

The tool is focused on simplicity but still lets you access logs, metrics, shells and advanced options when needed. I suggest it for anyone still new to Docker.

There‘s also great community support and responsiveness from the developer on GitHub. Feel free to open issues for any bugs you find or feature requests.

Lazydocker Usage Example

Here‘s a quick walkthrough of using Lazydocker:

When it first opens, you‘ll see a menu listing your containers, images, volumes etc:

Lazydocker main menu

Navigate to the Containers section and select a container. This will display options like logs, stats, stop container, restart etc.

Choose the logs option. You‘ll now see live streaming of the container application logs within Lazydocker.

Press the left arrow key to go back to the main menu. That‘s it! In a few clicks you can inspect and control containers.

Give Lazydocker a try if you want dead simple terminal UI for Docker.

6. Poco – Simplify Complex Docker Projects

As you use Docker more, you‘ll inevitably end up with tons of containers, images, volumes, networks etc. Poco is a lifesaver for organizing all this complexity. Here‘s what it provides:

  • Declarative YAML – Define Docker assets and relations in simple config files.

  • Local testing – Easily spin up your entire environment with one command.

  • Version control – Integrate your Docker configs with git or svn repos.

  • Environment variables – Centrally manage env vars for each project.

  • Access control – Add users and control permissions on projects.

  • Portable environments – Run the same environments across multiple machines.

Poco eliminates so much wasted time trying to manage disorganized Docker projects. I can focus on just the application code rather than docker-compose files and asset configurations.

It helps me keep all my Docker components structured for 60+ microservices across 5 environments! I have no idea how I operated before Poco.

The documentation provides examples to get you rolling. Once you try it, you‘ll never want to manage complex Docker apps any other way.

Poco Usage Example

Here‘s a simple example to demonstrate Poco‘s value:

Let‘s say I have a web application with a frontend and backend service. Without Poco, I would need to manage two separate docker-compose files and remember each service‘s port mappings and volumes.

With Poco, I can simply define it declaratively like this:

    image: myorg/frontend
      - 3000:3000

    image: myorg/backend    
      - 3001:3001
      - ./backend:/app

That‘s it! All my services are defined clearly in one place. I can now start this whole environment just by running:

poco up

As you can see, Poco simplifies Docker environments tremendously. I‘m able to focus on just the application instead of Docker nuances. I strongly suggest using Poco for organizing any non-trivial Docker project.

7. Sen – Interactive Terminal UI

For an interactive terminal UI, I recommend checking out Sen. Here are the capabilities that impress me:

  • Dashboard views – See all containers, images, volumes etc from one screen.

  • Live monitoring – Continuously updated resource usage stats.

  • Shell access – Easily open a shell inside any container.

  • Compose support – Manage all services defined in docker-compose.yml.

  • Keyboard shortcuts – Quickly perform actions without typing full commands.

  • Easy installation – Available for Linux and macOS through Python PIP.

Sen provides plenty of functionality in a simple interactive interface. I like using it for quick one-off tasks like checking container status, opening a debugging shell or viewing logs.

The tool is written in Python and has great support for extending it. Check out the developer documentation for customizing it to your needs.

Sen Usage Example

Here‘s a typical example of using Sen for debugging issues:

After starting Sen, we see the main dashboard view:

Sen dashboard view

This displays all running containers and their resource usage stats. I notice one container is using high CPU.

I navigate to that container and press "l" to view the logs. Scrolling through, I see some application errors.

To debug further, I press "s" to open a shell inside the container. Now I can run CLI commands to investigate the issue.

Being able to quickly check status and dive into issues makes Sen invaluable. I suggest adding it to your toolkit if you prefer interactive CLI tools.

8. Skopeo – Powerful Image Management

Last but not least, we have Skopeo. It‘s a super useful utility for managing container images. Here are just some of the things it can do:

  • Copy images between registries without needing to pull them. Much faster!

  • Delete images from registries to save on storage costs.

  • Inspect image metadata and properties without downloading the image.

  • Works without a Docker daemon making it great for CI/CD pipelines.

Skopeo makes working with remote image registries so much easier. I use it heavily on my CI servers to copy and analyze images without the overhead of Docker commands.

It integrates seamlessly with Docker credential stores and supports authentication for private registries. This allows me to fully automate image management.

For example, I can copy an image from Docker Hub to my private registry like this:

skopeo copy docker:// \

If you need to efficiently manage images across registries, definitely give Skopeo a try!

Closing Thoughts

Well there you have it – my 8 must-have CLI tools for simplifying Docker management! Here‘s a quick recap:

  • Dockly – Unified terminal for managing Docker environments.

  • Dive – Discover what‘s inside your Docker images.

  • ctop – Monitor container resource usage with live dashboards.

  • Dry – Elegant and efficient Docker management.

  • LazyDocker – Minimal terminal UI for container control.

  • Poco – Organize, structure and manage complex Docker projects.

  • Sen – Interactive terminal for managing Docker.

  • Skopeo – Powerful utility for managing container images.

I hope this guide was useful for discovering new CLI tools to make your container workflow smoother. These tools have been total game-changers for me. Let me know if you have any other favorite Docker CLI tools I should check out!

Happy container wrangling!

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