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Plugin creation

A plugin can be a simple implementation of triggers or can implement a command structure of its own. Dokku has no restrictions on the language in which a plugin is implemented; it only cares that the plugin implements the appropriate commands or triggers for the API. NOTE: any file that implements triggers or uses the command API must be executable.

Plugin Overview

When creating custom plugins:

  1. Take a look at the plugins shipped with Dokku and hack away!
  2. Check out the list of triggers the plugin can implement
  3. Upload the plugin to GitHub with a repository name following the dokku-<name> convention (e.g. dokku-mariadb)
  4. Edit this page and add a link to the plugin
  5. Subscribe to the dokku development blog to be notified about API changes and releases

Compilable plugins (Golang, Java(?), C, etc.)

When developing a plugin, the install trigger must be implemented such that it outputs the built executable(s) using a directory structure that implements the plugin's desired command and/or triggers the API. See the smoke-test-plugin for an example.

Command API

There are 3 main integration points: commands, subcommands/default, and subcommands/<command-name>.


Primarily used to supply the plugin's usage/help output. (i.e. plugin help).


Implements the plugin's default command behavior. (i.e. dokku plugin).


Implements the additional command interface and will translate to dokku plugin:cmd on the command line. (i.e. dokku plugin:install).

Plugin Building Tips

Always create a plugin.toml

The plugin.toml file is used to describe the plugin in help output, and helps users understand the purpose of the plugin. This must have a description and a version. The version should be bumped at every plugin release.

description = "dokku example plugin"
version = "0.1.0"

Files should be executable

Commands, subcommands, triggers and source shell scripts should all be executable. On a Unix-like machine, the following command can be used to make them executable:

chmod +x path/to/file

Non-executable commands, subcommands, and triggers will be ignored.

Use the pipefail bash option

Consider whether to include the set -eo pipefail option. Look at the following example:

IMAGE=$(docker images | grep "user/repo" | awk '{print $3}')
if [[ -z $IMAGE ]]; then
  dokku_log_fail "user/repo image not found... Did you run 'dokku plugin:install'?"

If user/repo doesn't exist, Dokku exits just before the awk command and the dokku_log_fail message will never go to STDOUT. printed with echo. The set -e option should be used in this case.

Here is the help entry for set:

help set
  -e  Exit immediately if a command exits with a non-zero status.
  -o option-name
      pipefail     the return value of a pipeline is the status of
                   the last command to exit with a non-zero status,
                   or zero if no command exited with a non-zero status

Support trace mode

Trace mode is useful for getting debugging output from plugins when the --trace flag is specified or dokku trace:on is triggered. This should be done at the top of each shell script:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
set -eo pipefail
[[ $DOKKU_TRACE ]] && set -x

In the above example, the third line enables bash's debug mode, which prints command traces before executing command.

Verify the existence of dependencies

If a plugin depends on a specific command-line tool, check whether that tool exists before utilizing it. Either command -v or which may be used to do so:

# `command -v` example
if ! command -v "nginx" &>/dev/null; then
  dokku_log_fail "Missing nginx, install it"

# `which` example
if ! which nginx >/dev/null 2>&1; then
  dokku_log_fail "Missing nginx, install it"

In cases where a dependency should be installed before the plugin can be used at all, use the dependencies plugin trigger to install the dependency.

Implement a help command

For plugins which expose commands, implement a help command. This may be empty, but should contain a listing of all available commands.

Commas - , - are used in the help output for columnizing output. Verify that the plugin conforms to the spec by running dokku help --all and manually verifying the output.

See the sample plugin below for an example.

Namespace commands

All commands should be namespaced. In cases where a core plugin is overriden, the plugin may utilize the a namespace in use by the core, but generally this should be avoided to reduce confusion as to where the command is implemented.

Implement a proper catch-all command

As of 0.3.3, a catch-all should be implemented that exits with a DOKKU_NOT_IMPLEMENTED_EXIT code. This allows Dokku to output a command not found message.

See the sample plugin below for an example.

Set app config without restarting

In the case that a plugin needs to set app configuration settings and a restart should be avoided (default Heroku-style behavior) these "internal" commands provide this functionality:

config_set --no-restart node-js-app KEY1=VALUE1 [KEY2=VALUE2 ...]
config_unset --no-restart node-js-app KEY1 [KEY2 ...]

Expose functionality in a functions file

To allow other plugins access to (some of) a plugin's functionality, functions can expose by including a functions file in the plugin for others to source. All functions in that file should be considered publicly accessible by other plugins.

Any functions that must be kept private should reside in the plugin's trigger/ or commands/ directories. Other files may also be used to hide private functions; the official convention for hiding private functions is to place them an internal-functions file.

Use helper functions to fetch app images


Introduced in 0.4.0

Dokku allows image tagging and deployment of tagged images. This means hard-coding the $IMAGE as dokku/$APP is no longer sufficient.

Plugins should use get_running_image_tag() and get_app_image_name() as sourced from common/functions. See the plugin triggers doc for examples.


Note: This is only for plugins that are not pre/post-build-* plugins

Use $DOCKER_BIN instead of docker directly


Introduced in 0.17.5

Certain systems may require a wrapper function around the docker binary for proper execution. Utilizing the $DOCKER_BIN environment variable when calling docker for those functions is preferred.

# good
"$DOCKER_BIN" container run -d $IMAGE /bin/bash -e -c "$COMMAND"

# bad
docker run -d $IMAGE /bin/bash -e -c "$COMMAND"

Include labels for all temporary containers and images


Introduced in 0.5.0

As of 0.5.0, labels are used to help cleanup intermediate containers with dokku cleanup. Plugins that create containers and images should add the correct labels to the build, commit, and run docker commands.

Note that where possible, a label$APP - where $APP is the name of the app - should also be included. This enables dokku cleanup APP to cleanup the specific containers for a given app.

# `docker build` example

# `docker commit` example
# Note that the arguments must be set as a local array
# as arrays cannot be exported in shell
local DOKKU_COMMIT_ARGS=("--change" "LABEL org.label-schema.schema-version=1.0" "--change" "LABEL org.label-schema.vendor=dokku" "--change" "LABEL $DOKKU_CONTAINER_LABEL=")
"$DOCKER_BIN" container commit --change "LABEL$APP" "${DOKKU_COMMIT_ARGS[@]}" ...

# `docker run` example
"$DOCKER_BIN" container run "${APP}" $DOKKU_GLOBAL_RUN_ARGS ...

Copy files from the built image using copy_from_image

Avoid copying files from running containers as these files may change over time. Instead copy files from the image built during the deploy process. This can be done via the copy_from_image helper function. This will correctly handle various corner cases in copying files from an image.

source "$PLUGIN_CORE_AVAILABLE_PATH/common/functions"

local TMP_FILE=$(mktemp "/tmp/dokku-${DOKKU_PID}-${FUNCNAME[0]}.XXXXXX")
trap "rm -rf '$TMP_FILE' >/dev/null" RETURN INT TERM

local IMAGE_TAG="$(get_running_image_tag "$APP")"
local IMAGE=$(get_deploying_app_image_name "$APP" "$IMAGE_TAG")
copy_from_image "$IMAGE" "file-being-copied" "$TMP_FILE" 2>/dev/null

Files are copied from the /app directory - for images built via buildpacks - or WORKDIR - for images built via Dockerfile.

Avoid calling the dokku binary directly


Introduced in 0.6.0

Plugins should not call the dokku binary directly from within plugins because clients using the --app argument are potentially broken when doing so.

Plugins should instead source the functions file for a given plugin when attempting to call Dokku internal functions. In cases where plugin functions cannot be sourced (eg if a plugin is implemented in Golang), then call the relevant plugin triggers instead.

Sample plugin

The below plugin is a dummy dokku hello plugin.

Each plugin requires a plugin.toml descriptor file with the following required fields:

description = "dokku hello plugin"
version = "0.1.0"


#!/usr/bin/env bash
set -eo pipefail
[[ $DOKKU_TRACE ]] && set -x
source "$PLUGIN_CORE_AVAILABLE_PATH/common/functions"

cmd-hello-default() {
  declare desc="prints Hello \$APP"
  declare cmd="hello"
  [[ "$1" == "$cmd" ]] && shift 1
  # Support --app/$DOKKU_APP_NAME flag
  # Use the following lines to reorder args into "$cmd $DOKKU_APP_NAME $@""
  [[ -n $DOKKU_APP_NAME ]] && set -- $DOKKU_APP_NAME $@
  set -- $cmd $@
  declare APP="$1"

  [[ -z "$APP" ]] && dokku_log_fail "Please specify an app to run the command on"
  verify_app_name "$APP"

  echo "Hello $APP"

cmd-hello-default "$@"


#!/usr/bin/env bash
set -eo pipefail
[[ $DOKKU_TRACE ]] && set -x
source "$PLUGIN_CORE_AVAILABLE_PATH/common/functions"

cmd-hello-world() {
  declare desc="prints Hello world"
  declare cmd="hello:world"
  [[ "$1" == "$cmd" ]] && shift 1

  echo "Hello world"

cmd-hello-world "$@"


#!/usr/bin/env bash
set -eo pipefail
[[ $DOKKU_TRACE ]] && set -x

case "$1" in
  help | hello:help)
    help_content_func () {
      declare desc="return help_content string"
    hello <app>, Says "Hello <app>"
    hello:world, Says "Hello world"

    if [[ $1 = "hello:help" ]] ; then
        echo -e 'Usage: dokku hello[:world] [<app>]'
        echo ''
        echo 'Say Hello World.'
        echo ''
        echo 'Example:'
        echo ''
        echo '$ dokku hello:world'
        echo 'Hello world'
        echo ''
        echo 'Additional commands:'
        help_content_func | sort | column -c2 -t -s,