Product Reviews

Orbstack - What Docker Desktop Wishes it Could Be

Last Updated on January 05, 2024 6 min read

For many Mac users who use Docker, Docker Desktop has been the go-to choice for a long time. Even majority of the tutorials and guides on the internet assume that you are using Docker Desktop. Its promise of container management, seamless workflows, and app isolation sounded like the ultimate solution. However, reality struck hard - the experience was anything but seamless! Docker Desktop is resource-hungry; you might find yourself struggling to multitask while it runs in the background. And let's not talk about the agonizingly long startup times. But hey, it's just a small price to pay for containerization, right? Right?!

When I got my first Mac, I didn't even want to install Docker Desktop at all. I'd used its Windows counterpart, and it was a nightmare. I eventually uninstalled it and switched to WSL2. But as a fresh Mac user, I didn't have that option; I didn't even know of other viable alternatives. So I installed Docker Desktop and it didn't fail to disappoint 😅. No need to start narrating my experience with it; I'm sure you've had your fair share of struggles with it too. But I'm not here to bash Docker Desktop, I mean, it's still a super useful tool. I'm just here to tell you that there's a better alternative in town - Orbstack.

Other Alternatives

Just so you know, I did try out other alternatives like Rancher Desktop and Colima and yeah, they performed better than Docker Desktop in a wide range of areas. I'm not going to go into the details of their pros and cons, but I'll just say that they didn't quite fit my needs. I wanted something that was lightweight, feels native nd snappy, and is a joy to use. And that's when I found Orbstack.

Orbstack, the Docker Desktop Slayer

Say hello to Orbstack, my current champion in the battle to replace Docker Desktop. And boy, did it live up to the hype! WHere do I even begin? Hmm... is it the insanely fast startup times? Or its incredibly small footprint?(Like, seriously, I leave it running in the background all the time and I don't even notice it.) Or its native feel? Or its absolutely gorgeous UI? ( It's so beautiful that me, who basically lives in the terminal, actually prefers using the GUI.) Ok Ok, I know I sound like a fanboy, but seriously, I'm just so excited to share this with you. Let's take a look at some of its features.

  • Lightweight: Orbstack is super lightweight. It's not an Electron app with the Chromium engine doing what it does best - hogging resources. It's a native app built with SwiftUI, and the underlying components are written in Go, Rust and C, so it's super fast and responsive. It's also very small in size, so you can leave it running in the background without worrying about it slowing down your system.
  • Speed Redefined: Orbstack's startup time defies logic—it's instantaneous! I'm not even exaggerating. It's the kind of speed dreams are made of. The first time I opened it, I was like, "Wait, is that it? Did it just open?!". Here's a sample of its startup time on my machine (it's not sped up or anything and this is on M1 MacBook Air) Orbstack Startup GIF
  • Beautiful UI: Orbstack's UI is absolutely gorgeous. It's clean, minimal, and intuitive. It's also super easy to use. It's so beautiful that I actually prefer using the GUI over the terminal (I know, I know, I'm a terminal guy, but Orbstack's GUI is just too good to pass up).
  • SSH Port Forwarding: Orbstack allows you to forward SSH ports to your containers. This is super useful when you want to SSH into your containers. You can also forward ports to your host machine.
  • Auto SSL for all Containers and Services: This one's one of my favorites. Orbstack automatically generates SSL certificates for all your containers and services - using the container or service name as the domain name. The covenience of this feature is just unmatched.
  • Native File Access: Yes, you read that right. YOu can access your container's files directly from your host machine using our very own Finder. No need to use the terminal or any other third-party tools. Just open Orbstack from the menu bar and you'll see the icon to access your container's files. And not just that, even your images and volumes are just a click away. You can inspect them, delete them, or anything else you want to do with them on the fly.

And so much more, it's an exhaustive list. You can check out the full list of features here.

But wait, there's more!

And the surprises with Orbstack don't end there. Brace yourself for more. Orbstack is not just a Docker Desktop alternative, it's so much more. Just like WSL2, Orbstack offers Linux environments that are not just similar but unbelievably fast. You have the best of both worlds without compromising on speed or efficiency. And of course, your linux machines have SSL enabled domains you can use to access them, and you've got native file access as well. Creating a  new linux machine

How to Install Orbstack

Honestly, this post wasn't necessarily to teach you how to install Orbstack. It's quite simple and uncomplicated. But since I'm already here, I might as well show you how. You can get the latest version of Orbstack here. Open it and drag it to your Applications folder and that's it, you're done! Docker will be up and running in no time after you launch your app (you'll see the startup time I've been raving about).

For the Brew loyalists, you can install Orbstack using Homebrew as well. Just run the following command in your terminal:

brew install orbstack


Alright, I know I've been raving mad about Orbstack. It's not perfect of course, the only problem I have with it has to do with it's pricing. It's free for personal use, so you can use it for your personal projects. But if you want to use it for commercial purposes, you'll have to pay for it. But hey, it's a small price to pay for this beauty. You can check out the pricing here. I sounded too excited throughout this article, but I'm not affiliated with Orbstack in any way. I'm just a happy user who wants to share this amazing tool with the world. I wont sound like this in my next article, I promise. I hope you found this article useful.

Happy new year folks. Here's to a prosperous and splendid 2024 🥂

About Me

Hey there, welcome to my blog! I'm Kyrian, a programming enthusiast with a passion for web and game development. I love sharing my knowledge with others and helping them discover new things. Head over to my about page to learn more about me and my journey in the tech world. See you there!.

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