Using Docker Official Images

Docker recommends you use the Docker Official Images in your projects. These images have clear documentation, promote best practices, and are regularly updated. Docker Official Images support most common use cases, making them perfect for new Docker users. Advanced users can benefit from more specialized image variants as well as review Docker Official Images as part of your Dockerfile learning process.


The repository description for each Docker Official Image contains a Supported tags and respective Dockerfile links section that lists all the current tags with links to the Dockerfiles that created the image with those tags. The purpose of this section is to show what image variants are available.

Example: supported tags for Ubuntu

Tags listed on the same line all refer to the same underlying image. Multiple tags can point to the same image. For example, in the previous screenshot taken from the ubuntu Docker Official Images repository, the tags 24.04, noble-20240225, noble, and devel all refer to the same image.

The latest tag for a Docker Official Image is often optimized for ease of use and includes a wide variety of useful software, such as developer and build tools. By tagging an image as latest, the image maintainers are essentially suggesting that image be used as the default. In other words, if you do not know what tag to use or are unfamiliar with the underlying software, you should probably start with the latest image. As your understanding of the software and image variants advances, you may find other image variants better suit your needs.

Slim images

A number of language stacks such as Node.js, Python, and Ruby have slim tag variants designed to provide a lightweight, production-ready base image with fewer packages.

A typical consumption pattern for slim images is as the base image for the final stage of a multi-staged build. For example, you build your application in the first stage of the build using the latest variant and then copy your application into the final stage based upon the slim variant. Here is an example Dockerfile.

FROM node:latest AS build
COPY package.json package-lock.json ./
RUN npm ci
COPY . ./
FROM node:slim
COPY --from=build /app /app
CMD ["node", "app.js"]

Alpine images

Many Docker Official Images repositories also offer alpine variants. These images are built on top of the Alpine Linux distribution rather than Debian or Ubuntu. Alpine Linux is focused on providing a small, simple, and secure base for container images, and Docker Official Images alpine variants typically aim to install only necessary packages. As a result, Docker Official Images alpine variants are typically even smaller than slim variants.

The main caveat to note is that Alpine Linux uses musl libc instead of glibc. Additionally, to minimize image size, it's uncommon for Alpine-based images to include tools such as Git or Bash by default. Depending on the depth of libc requirements or assumptions in your programs, you may find yourself running into issues due to missing libraries or tools.

When you use Alpine images as a base, consider the following options in order to make your program compatible with Alpine Linux and musl:

  • Compile your program against musl libc
  • Statically link glibc libraries into your program
  • Avoid C dependencies altogether (for example, build Go programs without CGO)
  • Add the software you need yourself in your Dockerfile.

Refer to the alpine image description on Docker Hub for examples on how to install packages if you are unfamiliar.


Tags with words that look like Toy Story characters (for example, bookworm, bullseye, and trixie) or adjectives (such as focal, jammy, and noble), indicate the codename of the Linux distribution they use as a base image. Debian release codenames are based on Toy Story characters, and Ubuntu's take the form of "Adjective Animal". For example, the codename for Ubuntu 24.04 is "Noble Numbat".

Linux distribution indicators are helpful because many Docker Official Images provide variants built upon multiple underlying distribution versions (for example, postgres:bookworm and postgres:bullseye).

Other tags

Docker Official Images tags may contain other hints to the purpose of their image variant in addition to those described here. Often these tag variants are explained in the Docker Official Images repository documentation. Reading through the “How to use this image” and “Image Variants” sections will help you to understand how to use these variants.