Docker: adding a file from a parent directory

In my Dockerfile I've got :

ADD ../../myapp.war /opt/tomcat7/webapps/

That file exists as ls ../../myapp.war returns me the correct file but when I execute sudo docker build -t myapp . I've got :

Step 1 : ADD ../../myapp.war /opt/tomcat7/webapps/
2014/07/02 19:18:09 ../../myapp.war: no such file or directory

Does somebody know why and how to do it correctly?


You can build the Dockerfile from the parent directory:

docker build -t <some tag> -f <dir/dir/Dockerfile> .

Unfortunately, (for practical and security reasons I guess), if you want to add/copy local content, it must be located under the same root path than the Dockerfile.

From the documentation:

The <src> path must be inside the context of the build; you cannot ADD ../something/something, because the first step of a docker build is to send the context directory (and subdirectories) to the docker daemon.

EDIT: There's now an option (-f) to set the path of your Dockerfile ; it can be used to achieve what you want, see @Boedy 's response nelow.

With docker-compose you could set context folder:

version: '3.3'    
          context: ./
          dockerfile: ./docker/yourservice/Dockerfile

The solution for those who use composer is to use a volume pointing to the parent folder:


  build: foo
    - ./:/src/:ro

But I'm pretty sure the can be done playing with volumes in Dockerfile.

Adding some code snippets to support the accepted answer.

Directory structure :

 |__<my source files>

Docker file entry:

RUN mkdir -p /home/vagrant/dockerws/chatServerInstaller/scripts/
RUN mkdir -p /home/vagrant/dockerws/chatServerInstaller/src/
WORKDIR /home/vagrant/dockerws/chatServerInstaller

#Copy all the required files from host's file system to the container file system.
COPY setup/target/scripts/ scripts/
COPY setup/target/scripts/ scripts/
COPY src/ src/

Command used to build the docker image

docker build -t test:latest -f setup/docker/Dockerfile .

Since -f caused another problem, I developed another solution.

  • Create a base image in the parent folder
  • Added the required files.
  • Used this image as a base image for the project which in a descendant folder.

The -f flag does not solved my problem because my onbuild image looks for a file in a folder and had to call like this:

-f foo/bar/Dockerfile foo/bar

instead of

-f foo/bar/Dockerfile .

Also note that this is only solution for some cases as -f flag

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