Set up Visual Studio Code

This page describes how to set up Visual Studio Code (vscode) for remote container development in a SKA Software docker container.

The instructions below assume that you have already followed the instructions for setting up your development environment, using the Docker approach on the Set up your development environment page.


The remote container development workflow that we introduced in the Set up your development environment is not uncommon, and is now supported by some IDEs. The SKA-Low-MCCS repository is already set up for remote container development in Visual Studio Code (“vscode”), and it is recommended that you use vscode to develop.


The following instructions simply integrate our remote container development workflow into the vscode IDE, so that, for example, the vscode IDE terminal runs inside a Docker container.

  1. Install vscode on your local machine. (On Ubuntu this is done via the “Ubuntu Software” app.)

  2. Start vscode. Choose “Open folder…” and select the SKA-Low-MCCS repository folder. You should see the contents of our repository open into your sidebar. (If you don’t: there is a column of icons along the left-hand side that controls which sidebar you are seeing. Click on the first one. Now you should set the contents of our repo in the sidebar.)

  3. Click on the “Extensions” sidebar icon (it’s the one that looks like a square jigsaw puzzle.) Search for and install “Remote-Containers”.

  4. Once the extension is installed, you should see a pop-up box telling you that it has detected a .devcontainers folder, and asking if you want to reload the repository in a remote container. Choose yes. You’ll see a pop-up message that it is “Starting with Dev Container”.

    • If you left it too long and the “.devcontainer detected” pop-up disappeared, then <Ctrl-Shift-P> is your friend: it opens a Command Bar from which any VScode command can be searched for and run. Type “Remote” and you will find an option along the lines of “Rebuild and reopen in container”.

    • The first time you do this, it may take a very long time, because the Docker image has to be downloaded. Once downloaded, the image will be cached, so it will be much faster in future.

    • If you click on the “Starting with Dev Container” message box, it will show you a terminal where things are happening. Go have a cup of tea.

  1. Visual Studio Code is now running inside your container. Open a bash terminal in vscode (look for the + button amongst the terminal options). The bash prompt will be something like


    indicating that you are user “tango” in a docker container named “18a8d6ab7934” (your container name will differ).

  2. Run the tests:

    tango@18a8d6ab7934:/workspaces/ska-low-mccs$ tox -e py

    The tests run because they are being run inside the Docker container, which contains all the dependencies.

  3. Go code!

    • The other sidebar you need to know about is the git sidebar. This sidebar helps you keep track of git status and perform git commands. For example, to make a commit, simply stage the edited files that you want to commit (the “+” button), provide a message in the message box, and hit the commit (tick) button. For more more complex git stuff like stashing, rebasing, etc, it might be possible to do it through the GUI, but you might still find it easier to do it in the terminal.