Use the Containers window

You can view what's going on inside the containers that host your app by using the Containers window. If you're used to using the command prompt to run Docker commands to view and diagnose what's going on with your containers, this window provides a more convenient way to monitor your containers without leaving the Visual Studio IDE.

You can also view information about container images using the Containers window.


View information about your containers

The Containers window opens automatically when you start a containerized .NET project. To view your containers in Visual Studio at any time, use Ctrl+Q to activate the Visual Studio Search box, and type Containers and choose the first item. You can also open the Containers window from the main menu. Use the menu path View > Other Windows > Containers.

Screenshot of the Containers window in Visual Studio with a container selected in the left pane, and the Environment tab selected in the right pane.

On the left side, you see the list of containers on your local machine. The containers associated with your solution are shown under Solution Containers. To the right, you see a pane with tabs for Environment, Labels, Ports, Volumes, Logs, and Files.


You can easily customize where the Containers tool window is docked in Visual Studio. See Customizing window layouts in Visual Studio. By default, the Containers window is docked with the Watch window when the debugger is running.

View environment variables

The Environment tab shows the environment variables in the container. For your app's container, you can set these variables in many ways, for example, in the Dockerfile, in a .env file, or by using the -e option when you start a container using a Docker command.

Screenshot of the Containers window in Visual Studio showing the Environment variables for a container.


Any changes to the environment variables aren't reflected in real time. Also, the environment variables in this tab are the system environment variables on the container, and do not reflect user environment variables local to the app.

View labels

The Labels tab shows the labels for the container. Labels are a way of setting custom metadata on Docker objects. Some labels are set automatically by Visual Studio.

Screenshot of the Containers window in Visual Studio showing the Labels tab

View port mappings

On the Ports tab, you can check the port mappings that are in effect for your container.

Screenshot of Ports tab in Containers window

Well-known ports are linked, so if there's content available on a port, you can click on the link to open the browser.

View volumes

The Volumes tab shows the volumes (mounted filesystem nodes) on the container.

Screenshot of Volumes tab in Containers window

View logs

The Logs tab shows the results of the docker logs command. By default, the tab shows stdout and stderr streams on a container, but you can configure the output. For details, see Docker logging. By default, the Logs tab streams the logs, but you can disable that by choosing the Stop button on the tab.

Screenshot of Logs tab in Containers window

To clear the logs, use the Clear button on the Logs tab. To get all the logs, use the Refresh button.


Visual Studio automatically redirects stdout and stderr to the Output window when you run without debugging with Windows containers, so Windows containers started from Visual Studio using Ctrl+F5 will not display logs in this tab; use the Output window instead.

View the filesystem

On the Files tab, you can view the container's filesystem, including the app folder that contains your project.

Screenshot of Files tab in Containers window

To open files in Visual Studio, browse to the file and double-click it, or right-click and choose Open. Visual Studio opens files in read-only mode.

Screenshot of file open for viewing in Visual Studio

Using the Files tab, you can view application logs such as IIS logs, configuration files, and other content files in your container's filesystem.

Start, stop, and remove containers

By default, the Containers window shows all containers on the machine that Docker manages. You can use the toolbar buttons to start, stop, or remove (delete) a container you no longer want. This list is dynamically updated as containers are created or removed.

To select multiple containers, for example, to remove more than one at a time, use Ctrl+Click. If you try to start more than 10 containers, you are prompted to confirm this. You can disable the confirmation prompt if desired.

Open a terminal window in a running container

You can open a terminal window (command prompt or interactive shell) in the container by using the Open Terminal Window button in the Container window.

Screenshot of Open Terminal Window in the Containers window

For Windows containers, the Windows command prompt opens. For Linux containers, it opens a window using the bash shell.

Screenshot of bash window

Normally, the terminal window opens outside Visual Studio as a separate window. If you want a command-line environment integrated into the Visual Studio IDE as a dockable tool window, you can install Whack Whack Terminal.

Attach the debugger to a process

You can attach the debugger to a process that is running in the container by using the Attach to Process button on the Containers window toolbar. When you use this button, the Attach to Process dialog appears and shows the available processes that are running in the container.

Screenshot of Attach to Process dialog box

You can attach to managed processes in the container. To look for a process in another container, use the Find button and select another container on the Select Docker Container dialog.

Viewing images

You can also view images on the local machine by using the Images tab in the Containers window. Images pulled from external repositories are grouped together in a treeview.

Screenshot showing Containers window showing container images

The window has only the tabs applicable to images: Labels and Details. The Details tab shows the configuration details for the image in JSON format.

Screenshot showing Images > Details tab of the Containers window

To remove an image, right-click on the image in the treeview and choose Remove, or select the image, and use the Remove button on the toolbar.

Prune containers and images

You can easily remove containers and images you're not using anymore by using the Prune button on the Containers window toolbar.

Screenshot showing the prune button

You'll be asked to confirm that you want to remove all your unused containers.

When the Images tab is selected, the Prune button will ask if you want to remove all dangling images. Dangling images are images of layers that are no longer associated with a tagged image. Removing them occasionally helps conserve disk space.

Configuration options

The confirmation dialogs for various tasks, such as removing containers and images, or launching more than 10 containers at a time, may be configured. You can disable each prompt by using the checkbox on the dialog. You can also enable or disable these options by using the settings at Tools > Options > Container Tools > Containers Tool Window. See Configure Container Tools.

Next steps

Learn more about the Container Tools available in Visual Studio by reading the Container Tools Overview.

See also

Container Development in Visual Studio