Compose Develop Specification


Develop is an optional part of the Compose Specification. It is available with Docker Compose version 2.22.0 and later.

This page defines how Compose behaves to efficiently assist you and defines the development constraints and workflows set by Compose. Only a subset of Compose file services may require a develop subsection.

Illustrative example

    image: example/webapp
    build: ./webapp
        # sync static content
        - path: ./webapp/html
          action: sync
          target: /var/www
            - node_modules/

    image: example/backend
    build: ./backend
        # rebuild image and recreate service
        - path: ./backend/src
          action: rebuild


The develop subsection defines configuration options that are applied by Compose to assist you during development of a service with optimized workflows.


The watch attribute defines a list of rules that control automatic service updates based on local file changes. watch is a sequence, each individual item in the sequence defines a rule to be applied by Compose to monitor source code for changes. For more information, see Use Compose Watch.


action defines the action to take when changes are detected. If action is set to:

  • rebuild, Compose rebuilds the service image based on the build section and recreates the service with the updated image.
  • sync, Compose keeps the existing service container(s) running, but synchronizes source files with container content according to the target attribute.
  • sync+restart, Compose synchronizes source files with container content according to the target attribute, and then restarts the container.

sync+restart attribute is available with Docker Compose version 2.23.0 and later.


The ignore attribute can be used to define a list of patterns for paths to be ignored. Any updated file that matches a pattern, or belongs to a folder that matches a pattern, won't trigger services to be re-created. The syntax is the same as .dockerignore file:

  • * matches 0 or more characters in a file name.
  • ? matches a single character in file name.
  • */* matches two nested folders with arbitrary names
  • ** matches an arbitrary number of nested folders

If the build context includes a .dockerignore file, the patterns in this file is loaded as implicit content for the ignores file, and values set in the Compose model are appended.


path attribute defines the path to source code (relative to the project directory) to monitor for changes. Updates to any file inside the path, which doesn't match any ignore rule, triggers the configured action.


target attribute only applies when action is configured for sync. Files within path with changes are synchronized with container filesystem, so that the latter is always running with up-to-date content.