Install and Use Podman Desktop GUI to Manage Containers
For many, Docker Desktop is the go-to desktop GUI for container management. That’s all fine and well if Docker is your runtime of choice. But if you either use a distribution that doesn’t include Podman by default (such as Ubuntu) or a distribution that makes installing Docker a challenge (such as most of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux-based distributions), you might want to seek out an alternative.
For that, Red Hat has you covered.
That alternative is Podman Desktop. You can learn a bit more about Podman Desktop in this piece, but so long as you think of it as Podman’s answer to Docker Desktop, you’re already ahead of the curve. Red Hat released the latest version of the software in May.
Simply put, Podman Desktop simplifies the process of deploying and managing containers. If Podman is your container runtime engine of choice, you’re going to want to (at least) kick the tires of this well-designed desktop application.
I’m going to show you how to install Podman Desktop on Fedora Linux. The primary reason why I’ll demonstrate with that platform is that getting Podman running successfully on a Ubuntu-based system isn’t exactly for the faint of heart.
There are a lot of issues with Podman on non-RHEL systems and most admins don’t want to take the time to solve all of the associated issues. In fact, if a Ubuntu distribution is your Linux of choice, I would recommend sticking with Docker and Docker Desktop. Besides, Podman should come pre-installed on most RHEL-based distributions. And considering we’re installing Podman Desktop with Flatpak, you don’t have to also worry about installing flatpak (because it should be there by default).
Do note that Podman Desktop is also available for installation on macOS and Windows. The installation for those platforms is as simple as downloading the installer (for macOS, or Windows), double-clicking the downloaded file, and walking through the wizard.
The installation of Podman Desktop on Linux is done from the command line, so let’s get to it.
Installing Podman Desktop
It’s actually quite easy to install Podman Desktop. Log into your Linux desktop, open a terminal window, and issue the command:
flatpak install flathub io.podman_desktop.PodmanDesktop
Answer Y to the resulting questions and wait for the installation to complete.
If you receive an error that the application isn’t found, you might have to add the Flathub repository with the command:
flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo
Once the installation completes, log out of the desktop and log back in (so the Podman Desktop menu entry becomes available). You can then open your desktop menu, search for Podman Desktop, and click the launcher to open the app.
Using Podman Desktop
When you first open the app, you’ll find yourself on the Get Started page (Figure 1).
Click Go to Podman Desktop at the bottom right corner of the window, where you then find yourself on the Dashboard (Figure 2), where you can see the extensions and view documentation.
Click the Container icon (second from the top on the left sidebar). In the resulting window (Figure 3), click Create a container near the top right.
In the popup, click Existing image. In the next window (Figure 4), click Pull an image.
You can also go directly to the Images section by clicking the cloud icon in the left sidebar (which takes you directly to the Pull Image window).
On the Pull Image window, type the name of the image you want to pull and click Pull image (Figure 5).
Say, for instance, you want to pull the latest NGINX image. For that, type nginx:latest and then click Pull image.
Next, go back to the Containers section and click Create a container. When prompted, click Existing image and then click the right-pointing arrow for the NGINX image listing. This will open the container configuration window (Figure 6), where you can customize the container deployment (such as for columns, port mapping, environment variables, and more).
For example, you might want to use a volume for the deployment. In the case of NGINX, add a path to a directory on your host in the left field, and then the NGINX container document root (/usr/share/nginx/html) in the right field.
Once you’ve configured the container, click Start container to deploy. You should then see the container listed as Running (Figure 7).
Of course, since you just deployed an NGINX container, you’d have to open the firewall to the port you mapped. For example, if you used external port 8080, you could open the firewall with the command:
sudo firewall-cmd --permanent --zone=public --add-port=8080/tcp
And that’s the gist of using the Podman Desktop application. If you prefer Podman to Docker, consider this an important tool for you to either get up to speed with the technology or a more efficient means of managing your container deployments.
I highly recommend you give this app a try and see if it doesn’t make using Podman considerably easier. You might even find it quickly becoming your go-to means of interacting with your Podman deployments.