Docker Intro using MailCatcher

Safely Test email sending in a dev environment


It is often helpful to be able to test email sending from an application during development or testing (or even to make testing emails on a staging server possible).

To do this follow these instructions for a safe convenient way to test and inspect emails sent from an application.


First we need to get the repo (or at least the docker file)

# get the mailcatcher repo
git clone [email protected]:sj26/mailcatcher.git

# go into mailcather repo
cd mailcatcher

# configure to use the newest `released` gem version of mailcatcher
sed -i.bu1 's/FROM ruby:2.5/FROM ruby:2.6/' Dockerfile
sed -i.bu2 's/ARG VERSION=0.6.5/ARG VERSION=0.7.1/' Dockerfile

The Dockerfile should now look like (which is actually all that is actually needed):

FROM ruby:2.6
MAINTAINER Samuel Cochran <[email protected]>


RUN gem install mailcatcher -v $VERSION

EXPOSE 1025 1080

ENTRYPOINT ["mailcatcher", "--foreground"]
CMD ["--ip", ""]


Now you can download the docker image and install the gems into it with:

# -t adds repository:tag info -- the '.' at the end is important:
docker build -t btihen/ruby/mailcatcher:ruby_2.6 .
# ...
# should end with something like
# Successfully built 21e0de2bdd68

# now tag it as the **lasted** image with:
docker build -t btihen/ruby/mailcatcher:latest .

now you can see your list of docker images (you should see the starting image/container we just created):

docker images
REPOSITORY                 TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
btihen/ruby/mailcatcher    latest              21e0de2bdd68        8 minutes ago       870MB
btihen/ruby/mailcatcher    ruby_2.6            21e0de2bdd68        8 minutes ago       870MB
ruby                       2.6                 a98425292e84        2 weeks ago         843MB


Now start the docker image using the build image id (-d allows it to run in the backgroud, -p 1025:1025 -p 1080:1080 opens a connection on ports 1025 & 1080 from localhost to the docker image):

# build a container so we can test our image
docker run -d -p 1025:1025 -p 1080:1080 --name mailcatcher btihen/ruby/mailcatcher:latest

# or if you like ids better
docker run -d -p 1025:1025 -p 1080:1080 --name mailcatcher 21e0de2bdd68

# if you forgot the image-id you can list the images with:
docker images

TESTING (http & smtp)

now you should be able to go to http://localhost:1080 and see the mailcatcher webpage.

now lets test the smtp side from the cli using these instructions:

# connect to the mail server
$ telnet localhost 1025
# or
$ telnet 1025
220 smtp.domain.ext ESMTP Sendmail ?version-number?; ?date+time+gmtoffset?

# declare yourself (IP or DNS)
250 smtp.domain.ext Hello [], pleased to meet you

# declare who the email is from:
> MAIL FROM: [email protected]
250 2.1.0 [email protected] Sender ok

# declare who should get the email:
> RCPT TO: [email protected]
250 2.1.5 [email protected] Recipient ok

# setup the DATA transmission:
354 Enter mail, end with "." on a line by itself

# type a subject two returns and a message ending with '.' (on its own line):
SUBJECT: Test message

this is a TEST message,
please don't reply.
Thank you.

# end the connection

Now check the mail has arrived in mailcatcher at localhost:1080

Assuming you see the email sent - you can be sure your image & container is setup properly.


When we are done with mailcatcher we can stop the docker process:

docker ps -a
docker kill mailcatcher


To restart mailcatcher at a later date simply type:

docker start mailcatcher

SHARING IMAGES (once they work)

# login to the Azure Container Repository
docker login btihen -u username -p xxxxxxxxxxx

# upload the new image
docker push btihen/ruby/mailcatcher


az acr login --name username
az acr repository list --name username --output table

# getting the image
docker pull btihen/ruby/image_name

containerize the image

# these are the default local ports - adjust to your needs
docker run -d -p 1025:1025 -p 1080:1080 --name mailcatcher btihen/ruby/mailcatcher:latest

start the container

docker start mailcatcher


One-time install

# if needed install the azure cli
brew update && brew install azure-cli

# the following may also be needed:
brew update && brew install python3 && brew upgrade python3
brew link --overwrite python3

Retrieve the image list

# login with the azure-cli
az acr login --name username

# list the images
az acr repository list --name username --output table


when we no longer need mailcatcher we can remove it with (-a lists running and stopped containers):

docker ps -a
docker rm mailcatcher

REMOVING IMAGES To fully clean up and remove (images – after the containers are removed):

$ docker images
REPOSITORY               TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
btihen/ruby/mailcatcher  ruby_2.5            21e0de2bdd68        25 minutes ago      870MB
ruby                     2.5                 a98425292e84        2 weeks ago         843MB

$ docker image rm 21e0de2bdd68

$ docker images
REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
ruby                2.5                 a98425292e84        2 weeks ago         843MB
Bill Tihen
Bill Tihen
Developer, Data Enthusiast, Educator and Nature’s Friend

very curious – known to explore knownledge and nature