Values in a Compose file can be set by variables and interpolated at runtime. Compose files use a Bash-like syntax ${VARIABLE}. Both $VARIABLE and ${VARIABLE} syntax is supported.

For braced expressions, the following formats are supported:

  • Direct substitution
    • ${VAR} -> value of VAR
  • Default value
    • ${VAR:-default} -> value of VAR if set and non-empty, otherwise default
    • ${VAR-default} -> value of VAR if set, otherwise default
  • Required value
    • ${VAR:?error} -> value of VAR if set and non-empty, otherwise exit with error
    • ${VAR?error} -> value of VAR if set, otherwise exit with error
  • Alternative value
    • ${VAR:+replacement} -> replacement if VAR is set and non-empty, otherwise empty
    • ${VAR+replacement} -> replacement if VAR is set, otherwise empty

Interpolation can also be nested:

  • ${VARIABLE:-${FOO}}
  • ${VARIABLE:-${FOO:-default}}

Other extended shell-style features, such as ${VARIABLE/foo/bar}, are not supported by Compose.

You can use a $$ (double-dollar sign) when your configuration needs a literal dollar sign. This also prevents Compose from interpolating a value, so a $$ allows you to refer to environment variables that you don't want processed by Compose.

  build: .

If Compose can't resolve a substituted variable and no default value is defined, it displays a warning and substitutes the variable with an empty string.

As any values in a Compose file can be interpolated with variable substitution, including compact string notation for complex elements, interpolation is applied before a merge on a per-file basis.

Interpolation applies only to YAML values, not to keys. For the few places where keys are actually arbitrary user-defined strings, such as labels or environment, an alternate equal sign syntax must be used for interpolation to apply. For example: