Jack Wallen shows you how to expand the Docker Desktop feature set by adding Portainer to the mix.

Image: klss777 / Adobe Stock

Docker Desktop is the official GUI for managing Docker containers. With this multi-platform tool, you can do almost anything you need to work with your deployments. The only caveat to Docker Desktop is that it allows you to manage containers only on the same host on which the application is installed. If you want to use it to connect to a remote server, you’re out of luck.

However, I found that the web-based Portainer, which can connect to a remote environment, is a bit more stable in terms of features. With Portainer you can manage literally every aspect of the containers.

When I found it possible to add Portainer to Docker Desktop, I was excited. By adding Portainer to Docker Desktop, you expand the feature set to give the app more power, control and flexibility.

For anyone who is serious about managing your Docker containers with a GUI, it’s well worth the time to add a Portainer to your Docker Desktop and I’ll show you how.

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What you will need

The only thing you will need to make this work is a working instance of Docker Desktop. If you haven’t used it yet, here’s a tutorial that will guide you through the process.

Excluding that, let’s add Portainer.

How to install Portainer

The developers of Docker Desktop have made this incredibly easy, thanks to a convenient Marketplace where you can install Portainer and many other extensions such as anchor, JFrog, Lens, Meshery, OpenShift, Snyk and others.

To install Portainer, open Docker Desktop. Once the app launches and launches, click Add Extensions in the left navigation (Figure A).

Figure A

Image: Jack Wallen / TechRepublic. The main Docker Desktop window clearly shows that the extension feature is in beta.

Click the Portainer-related installation and, when prompted, enter your user password. The installation should be completed fairly quickly and once completed, you will see Portainer listed in the left sidebar (Figure B).

Figure B

Image: Jack Wallen / TechRepublic. Portainer installed successfully.

Click the Portainer list, and then click Getting Started (Figure C).

Figure C

Image: Jack Wallen / TechRepublic. You can use the default environment or create your own.

How to add a remote connection to Docker

If your Docker server is running on the same machine as the Docker Desktop, just click Getting Started to connect to this environment.

However, if your Docker server is remote, click Add environments. In the resulting window (Figure D), click the Docker tab.

Figure D

Image: Jack Wallen / TechRepublic. Add a remote environment to the Portainer.

Assume you want to name your Docker Swarm environment and the controller is at IP address For that you would add Docker Swarm as a name and then in the URL space of the environment enter

Once you’ve done that, scroll down and click Add Environment (Figure E).

Figure E

Image: Jack Wallen / TechRepublic. The information you need to create your new (remote) Docker Portainer environment.

If you return to the main window of Portainer (Figure F), you should now see your remote environment added with all statistics.

Figure F

Image: Jack Wallen / TechRepublic. Our new environment has been successfully added.

And that’s all you need to add Portainer to Docker Desktop and connect it to a remote environment. Enjoy this newfound power and flexibility thanks to Portainer.

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How to add Portainer to Docker Desktop and connect it to a remote environment

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