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Add a dev container to your project

This guide shows you how to add a dev container to define the Codespaces configuration for your Java project. For other project languages, click the language button to the right.

Prerequisites

Step 1: Open your project in a codespace

  1. Under the repository name, use the Code drop-down menu, and in the Codespaces tab, click New codespace.

    New codespace button

    If you don’t see this option, Codespaces isn't available for your project. See Access to Codespaces for more information.

When you create a codespace, your project is created on a remote VM that is dedicated to you. By default, the container for your codespace has many languages and runtimes including Java, nvm, npm, and yarn. It also includes a common set of tools like git, wget, rsync, openssh, and nano.

Codespaces uses a file called devcontainer.json to store configurations. On launch Codespaces uses the file to install any tools, dependencies, or other set up that might be needed for the project. For more information, see "Introduction to dev containers."

Step 2: Add a dev container to your codespace from a template

The default codespaces container comes with the latest Java version, package managers (Maven, Gradle), and other common tools preinstalled. However, we recommend that you set up a custom container to define the tools and scripts that your project needs. This will ensure a fully reproducible environment for all Codespaces users in your repository.

To set up your project with a custom container, you will need to use a devcontainer.json file to define the environment. In Codespaces you can add this either from a template or you can create your own. For more information on dev containers, see "Introduction to dev containers".

  1. Access the Command Palette (Shift + Command + P / Ctrl + Shift + P), then start typing "dev container". Select Codespaces: Add Development Container Configuration Files.... "Codespaces: Add Development Container Configuration Files..." in the command palette
  2. For this example, click Java. In practice, you could select any container that’s specific to Java or a combination of tools such as Java and Azure Functions. Select Java option from the list
  3. Click the recommended version of Java. Java version selection
  4. Select any additional features to install and click OK.
  5. Access the command palette (Shift + Command + P/ Ctrl + Shift + P), then start typing "rebuild". Select Codespaces: Rebuild Container. Rebuild container option

Anatomy of your dev container

Adding the Java dev container template adds a .devcontainer folder to the root of your project's repository with the following files:

  • devcontainer.json
  • Dockerfile

The newly added devcontainer.json file defines a few properties that are described below.

name - You can name your dev container anything, this is just the default.

build - The build properties.

  • dockerfile - In the build object, dockerfile is a reference to the Dockerfile that was also added from the template.
  • args
    • VARIANT: This file only contains one build argument, which is the Java version that is passed into the Dockerfile.

settings - These are Visual Studio Code settings that you can set.

  • terminal.integrated.shell.linux - While bash is the default here, you could use other terminal shells by modifying this.

extensions - These are extensions included by default.

  • vscjava.vscode-java-pack - The Java Extension Pack provides popular extensions for Java development to get you started.

forwardPorts - Any ports listed here will be forwarded automatically.

postCreateCommand - If you want to run anything after you land in your codespace that’s not defined in the Dockerfile, you can do that here.

remoteUser - By default, you’re running as the vscode user, but you can optionally set this to root.

Dockerfile

You can use the Dockerfile to add additional container layers to specify OS packages, node versions, or global packages we want included in our Dockerfile.

Step 3: Modify your devcontainer.json file

With your dev container added and a basic understanding of what everything does, you can now make changes to configure it for your environment. In this example, you'll add properties to install extensions and your project dependencies when your codespace launches.

  1. In the Explorer, expand the .devcontainer folder and select the devcontainer.json file from the tree to open it.

    devcontainer.json file in the Explorer

  2. Add the following lines to your devcontainer.json file after extensions.

    "postCreateCommand": "java -version", "forwardPorts": [4000],

    For more information on devcontainer.json properties, see the devcontainer.json reference on the Visual Studio Code docs.

  3. Access the command palette (Shift + Command + P/ Ctrl + Shift + P), then start typing "rebuild". Select Codespaces: Rebuild Container. Rebuild container option Rebuilding inside your codespace ensures your changes work as expected before you commit the changes to the repository. If something does result in a failure, you’ll be placed in a codespace with a recovery container that you can rebuild from to keep adjusting your container.

Step 4: Run your application

In the previous section, you used the postCreateCommand to install a set of packages via npm. You can now use this to run our application with npm.

  1. Run your application by pressing F5.

  2. When your project starts, you should see a message in the bottom right corner with a prompt to connect to the port your project uses. Port forwarding toast

Step 5: Commit your changes

Once you've made changes to your codespace, either new code or configuration changes, you'll want to commit your changes. Committing changes to your repository ensures that anyone else who creates a codespace from this repository has the same configuration. This also means that any customization you do, such as adding Visual Studio Code extensions, will appear for all users.

For information, see "Using source control in your codespace."

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