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Zahid Ahmed
Zahid Ahmed

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Best Practices for Writing a Dockerfile

Since I have been working with Docker for a long time, I decided to share some of my experience with you on best practices to develop better Containers.

1. Start with a Minimal Base Image

Choosing the right base image is crucial. Opt for a minimal image such as Alpine Linux or Debian slim. This reduces the attack surface and minimizes the container size, leading to faster image builds, downloads, and deployments.

2. Update and Upgrade Packages

Always run package updates and upgrades in your Dockerfile. This ensures that your container starts with the latest security patches and software updates, reducing vulnerabilities.

3. Use a Clear Directory Structure

Organize your project files within the container using a clear directory structure. This aids in readability and maintenance.

4. Copy Only What You Need

Minimize the data you copy into the image. Use .dockerignore to exclude unnecessary files from being copied, reducing the image size and build time.

5. Combine RUN Commands

Combine multiple RUN commands into a single command using logical operators (&&). This reduces the number of image layers, resulting in a smaller image.

6. Use Multi-Stage Builds

Utilize multi-stage builds to create intermediate build images and extract only necessary artifacts into the final image. This helps maintain a small final image size.

7. Set Environment Variables

Use ENV to set environment variables that configure your application's behavior. This makes your Dockerfile more configurable and adaptable across different environments.

8. Keep Layers In Logical Order

Arrange commands in your Dockerfile in a way that maximizes layer reuse. Commands that change frequently (like copying application code) should come after those that change infrequently (like installing dependencies).

9. Use Healthchecks

Incorporate healthchecks to monitor the container's health and ensure that your application is running as expected.

10. Secure Your Dockerfile

Avoid exposing sensitive information like credentials directly in the Dockerfile. Use build-time variables or secrets managed by the orchestration platform.

11. Document Your Dockerfile

Add comments explaining the purpose of each command and any assumptions you're making. This aids in collaboration and troubleshooting.

12. Test Your Dockerfile

Regularly test your Dockerfile by building and running the container locally. Ensure that it behaves as expected before pushing to a repository.


Writing an effective Dockerfile is an art that requires attention to detail and a deep understanding of both the application and containerization concepts. By following these best practices, you'll create Dockerfiles that lead to optimized images, faster build times, improved security, and a smoother development process.

Top comments (4)

mrcaidev profile image
Yuwang Cai • Edited

Practice 2 could possibly break the code imo. I would rather install the dependencies as-is so that the behavior of the app always stays the same.
The rest is fairly helpful! 👍👍

iamzahid profile image
Zahid Ahmed


chiroro_jr profile image

This article would have been a lot better with included code snippets for demonstration. Good effort anyways

iamzahid profile image
Zahid Ahmed