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

However, I have found the web-based Portainer, which can connect to a remote environment, to be a bit more robust in features. With Portainer you can manage literally every single aspect of containers.

When I discovered it’s possible to add Portainer to Docker Desktop, I was thrilled. By adding Portainer to Docker Desktop, you extend the feature set to give the application more power, control and flexibility.

For anyone serious about managing your Docker containers with a GUI, it is very much worth your time to add Portainer to Docker Desktop, and I’m going to show you how.

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What you’ll need

The only thing you’ll need to make this work is a running instance of Docker Desktop. If you don’t already have that up and running, here’s a tutorial that will guide you through the process.

With that out of the way, let’s add Portainer.

How to install Portainer

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

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

Figure A

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

Click install associated with Portainer and, when prompted, type your user password. The installation should complete fairly swiftly, and once it completes you’ll see Portainer listed in the left sidebar (Figure B).

Figure B

Image: Jack Wallen/TechRepublic. Portainer has been successfully installed.

Click the Portainer listing and then click Get Started (Figure C).

Figure C

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

How to add a remote Docker connection

If your Docker server is running on the same machine you installed Docker Desktop, simply click Get Started to connect to that environment.

If, however, your Docker server is remote, click Add Environments. In the resulting window (Figure D), click the Docker tab.

Figure D

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

Let’s say you want to name your environment Docker Swarm and the controller is at IP address For that, you’d add Docker Swarm as the name, and then, in the Environment URL space, type

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

Figure E

Image: Jack Wallen/TechRepublic. The necessary information for creating your new (remote) Docker environment for Portainer.

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

Figure F

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

And that’s all there is to adding Portainer to Docker Desktop and connecting it to a remote environment. Enjoy that newfound power and flexibility thanks to Portainer.

How to learn more about Docker

If you want to learn more about Docker, don’t miss these resources in the TechRepublic Academy:

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