Trying Docker for the first time

This guide page describes how to fetch Docker images onto your computers. This is the starting point for using Docker. You will often begin by fetching an image somelse has written for their software.

Docker uses the concept of software images. A Docker image is analogous to a box that can include applications, data or anything else that can be stored on a computer. These 'boxes' allow you or others to more easily share some bioinformatics software, for instance compared with trying to compile a tool from C source.

Getting a Docker image

First test that Docker is installed on your system. The following command should exit without error. If this does not work see the instructions for installing Docker.

docker -v

The command docker pull will fetch an image from DockerHub where images are stored. Try fetching the busybox which is a simple image.

docker pull busybox

Once this command has completed, you can test that the busybox image is available on your system. The command docker images will show you all the images on the system. You should see busybox in the list along with its size and when it was created.

docker images

This is the basics for getting Docker images. If someone tells you they created a Docker image of their bioinformatics tool these are the commands you would for getting the image


  • Fetch the bioboxes/velvet image. How big is it?