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Halil Kaskavalci
Halil Kaskavalci

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Docker Desktop Alternatives

Docker recently updated its license. This made Docker for Desktop a paid product for enterprises. In this post, you will learn about your alternatives.

What does Docker Desktop do?

Docker is for Linux systems. In order to run containers, you need a Linux operating system. If you use MacOS or Windows, then you will need a Linux VM in order to run Docker commands. This is where Docker Desktop comes in.

Docker desktop is an end to end solution that includes a VM, Linux distribution and docker daemon that runs inside it. Your host machine communicates with the VM to run docker commands in it.

What are the Docker Desktop alternatives?

There are couple of alternatives if you want to get rid of Docker Desktop for any reason. Some are mature, some are still in early stages.


Podman is a daemonless container engine for developing, managing, and running OCI Containers on your Linux System. It is open source. It is a docker replacement. Podman is compatible with Docker API and CLI. You can switch as easy as alias docker=podman.

However, podman still lacks some features such as supporting Docker socket by default or compose features. Community is actively working to fill the gaps.

Installation guide (Mac only)

# Install podman
$ brew install podman
# Download VM
$ podman machine init
# Start the VM
$ podman machine start
# Start using podman. (save this to your shell profile)
$ alias docker=podman
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Support for applications that need to use docker socket (DOCKER_HOST). See podman issue #11397.

# Create a SSH tunnel to the guest OS
$ ssh -nNT -L/tmp/podman.sock:/run/user/1000/podman/podman.sock -i ~/.ssh/podman-machine-default ssh://core@localhost:55591
# Use podman as DOCKER_HOST
$ export DOCKER_HOST='unix:///tmp/podman.sock'
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minikube is a managed VM to run Kubernetes on your local machine. It is possible to configure it to spit out environment configuration for Docker and Podman.

You will need minikube to be running in order to use Docker commands.

# Install minikube
$ brew install minikube
# Start local cluster
$ minikube start
# Consume docker env
$ eval $(minikube docker-env)
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Note that you will run a complete kubernetes cluster to run Docker commands. This may or may not be an issue for your setup.

Rancher Desktop

Rancher Desktop is another alternative to Docker Desktop. It is maintained by Rancher. In my experience I wasn't able to fully integrate it. It is under active development. It is definitely an alternative.


I have been using podman actively for a week now. In my experience, podman is the slimmest and stable alternative to Docker Desktop.

Further reading / watching

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