There are plenty of solutions for working with Docker, there are even more articles which intend to help you choosing the right one. However, I didn’t find any brief reviews which could help a user to simply decide which one to use based on tasks they are after. This article is mainly about my personal experience with Docker tools, so we’ll look at solutions which are the most frequently used inside the community.
Please note that all the utilities I’m describing here are mainly intended for developers’ use. If by chance you are a DevOps and after some deployment or scaling stuff, chances are you would possibly prefer Rancher.
Portainer — a tool for Docker containers configuration and management. This is a Web application. It beats Kitematic and Shipyard in terms of functionality and configurability.
Pros: Open Source project, feature-rich, supports remote nodes as well.
Cons: Counter-intuitive GUI which simply contains “too many of everything”. Working with more than one project could be tricky.
Kitematic is an official Docker application. Started initially as a third-party Open Source solution was acquired by Docker in 2015. It’s targeted mainly on managing and configuring stand-alone containers.
Pros: Still Open Source, Docker officially approved.
Cons: Limited functionality, low coverage of various Docker features. Again, almost unusable when it comes to dealing with more than one project.
Shipyard — yet another toolkit for Docker. It’s a web-app, it can manipulate containers and adjust some common parameters.
Pros: Open Source, relatively easy to use.
Cons: Like Kitematic, it has limited functionality, web-GUI could be a pain in some cases.
DockStation is a powerful solution focused mainly on developers. It supports project-oriented approach. The tool is also compatible with Docker Compose and Docker Machine.
Pros: Knows how to deal with Docker Compose directly. Built-in native support for Compose brings seamless support of almost any Docker feature you can imagine. It can also control remote Docker nodes, monitor containers resource consumption and full-text search throughout logs. Moreover, there is a support service available which is relatively fast and quite friendly.
Cons: proprietary (closed source), lack of documentation.
Now that we’ve briefly described all these apps, it’s time for some statistics. Below you can find comparison of the projects mentioned above across most common features you most probably need:
Every app has its own features and downsides. Each could be suitable for your tasks. For example, you are up to bringing one project to a standalone localhost. In this case all you need is start/stop and probably a basic logs viewer. In this case Kitematic looks promising. If in addition you are given a task to do it all on a remote node, then Shipyard is great.
However, when things tend to become more sophisticated, you are entering big league where DockStation and Portainer await. Those are quite powerful things. So, if you are a fan of technical clarity, not afraid of Docker Compose and need to maintain (monitor, troubleshoot) more than one project at a time with maximum efficiency, then DockStation if a perfect option.
On the other hand, when you are good with just one project but need a web-GUI plus advanced configuration of each separate container, then give Portainer a try.
UPD: Shipyard project is known to become officially discontinued.