Docker and Vdebug for PHP debugging

Docker is a great tool but unfortunately when you have a separate container for each web project you may start having issues with the debugger path mappings. In this short article, I will describe how to setup Vdebug which is a Vim DBGP debugger to work with multiple Docker containers. I'm not sure but maybe it will be also somehow useful for other debuggers/setups.

The solution described below assumes that you have a docker-compose.yml file in the directory which is mapped as your web root folder in the Docker container. If you don't have such configuration you may place e.g. empty .projectroot file but it will be less convenient as it will require remembering about this additional step.

Docker with Vdebug

When you use Docker each project has same web server root path which is something like /app or /var/www or something similar. In my case, it is /app for every container I've run via Docker.

This is a problem for the debugger because it doesn't know how to map remote file paths to your local file system during the debug process. If you are using Vim with Vdebug you may setup a custom path_maps option, but it is impossible to map multiple local paths to one remote path /app (which is the case with a Docker containers) e.g.

let g:vdebug_options = {
  'path_maps': {
    '/app': '/Users/username/projects/myproject1',
    '/app': '/Users/username/projects/myproject2'

This problem is described here on the Github issue.

As for now, the only solution seems to be changing the paths mapping during the start of the Vim editor. In order to achieve full automation of this process, you will have to install another Vim plugin which is vim-projectroot.

After a vim-projectroot installation put the following line inside your .vimrc file:

let g:rootmarkers = ['.projectroot', 'docker-compose.yml', '.git', '.hg', '.svn', '.bzr','_darcs','build.xml']

This way your project root will be automatically discovered by your docker-compose.yml file location (or any other file on the list).

Now it's time to setup the automatic Vdebug path_maps. In your .vimrc add following lines:

function! SetupDebug()
  let g:vdebug_options['path_maps'] = {'/app': call('projectroot#get', a:000)}
  " Hack to override vdebug options
  source ~/.vim/bundle/vdebug/plugin/vdebug.vim
autocmd VimEnter * :call SetupDebug()

A short description of the code above. It will execute SetupDebug() function each time you open a Vim editor (check the VimEnter event). Thanks to the installed vim-projectroot plugin the editor can "guess" what is your current project root path and adjust vdebug_options accordingly. The example above assumes that your Docker container web server points at /app folder and that you have a docker-compose.yml file in your local filesystem application root folder.

Now each time you open a new Vim editor it will reassign path_maps option to match your current project root with the Docker web server root.


Provided that your docker-compose.yml file is inside /Users/username/projects/myproject folder and your Docker container maps this folder to the /app directory e.g.

version: '2'
      - $PWD:/app

When you start the Vim in any of the /Users/username/projects/myproject subdirectories your path_maps will become:

'/app': '/Users/username/projects/myproject'

This should result in correct path mappings inside Vdebug debugger.


You may check current Vdebug options values by executing in the Vim command line:

:echo g:vdebug_options

If you are having some more troubles with the Docker + Vdebug setup feel free to leave a comment below.