Introduced in Docker Compose version 2.20.3
With include, you can incorporate a separate compose.yaml file directly in your current compose.yaml file. This makes it easy to modularize complex applications into sub-Compose files, which in turn enables application configurations to be made simpler and more explicit.

The include top-level element helps to reflect the engineering team responsible for the code directly in the config file's organization. It also solves the relative path problem that extends and merge present.

Each path listed in the include section loads as an individual Compose application model, with its own project directory, in order to resolve relative paths.

Once the included Compose application loads, all resources are copied into the current Compose application model.


include applies recursively so an included Compose file which declares its own include section, results in those other files being included as well.


  - my-compose-include.yaml  #with serviceB declared
    build: .
      - serviceB #use serviceB directly as if it was declared in this Compose file

my-compose-include.yaml manages serviceB which details some replicas, web UI to inspect data, isolated networks, volumes for data persistence, etc. The application relying on serviceB doesn’t need to know about the infrastructure details, and consumes the Compose file as a building block it can rely on.

This means the team managing serviceB can refactor its own database component to introduce additional services without impacting any dependent teams. It also means that the dependent teams don't need to include additional flags on each Compose command they run.

Include and overrides

Compose reports an error if any resource from include conflicts with resources from the included Compose file. This rule prevents unexpected conflicts with resources defined by the included compose file author. However, there may be some circumstances where you might want to tweak the included model. This can be achieved by adding an override file to the include directive:

  - path : 
      - third-party/compose.yaml
      - override.yaml  # local override for third-party model

The main limitation with this approach is that you need to maintain a dedicated override file per include. For complex projects with multiple includes this would result into many Compose files.

The other option is to use a compose.override.yaml file. While conflicts will be rejected from the file using include when same resource is declared, a global Compose override file can override the resulting merged model, as demonstrated in following example:

Main compose.yaml file:

  - team-1/compose.yaml # declare service-1
  - team-2/compose.yaml # declare service-2

Override compose.override.yaml file:

    # override included service-1 to enable debugger port
      - 2345:2345

    # override included service-2 to use local data folder containing test data
      - ./data:/data

Combined together, this allows you to benefit from third-party reusable components, and adjust the Compose model for your needs.

Reference information

include top-level element