The Full Wiki

K Desktop Environment: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


(Redirected to KDE article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

KDE logo.svg
Founders Matthias Ettrich
Headquarters Berlin (office location), Tübingen (registered)
Staff Cornelius Schumacher
Focus Free software
Employees 1

KDE (pronounced /ˌkeɪdiːˈiː/) is a free software project based around its flagship product, a cross-platform desktop environment designed to run on Linux, FreeBSD, Windows and Mac OS X systems.[1][2]. It's the default desktop environment for many Linux distributions, such as openSUSE, Mandriva Linux, Kubuntu and Pardus. The goal of the project is to provide basic desktop functions and applications for daily needs as well as tools and documentation for developers to write stand-alone applications for the system. In this regard, the KDE project serves as an umbrella project for many standalone applications and smaller projects that are based on KDE technology. These include KOffice, KDevelop, Amarok, K3b and many others. KDE software is based on the Qt toolkit, although it has also support for programs based on GTK, as well as the GTK-based visual themes.[3] The original GPL version of this toolkit only existed for the X11 platform, but with the release of Qt 4, GPL versions are available for all platforms. This allows KDE software based on Qt 4 to also be distributed to Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.





KDE was founded in 1996 by Matthias Ettrich, who was then a student at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen. At the time, he was troubled by certain aspects of the Unix desktop. Among his qualms was that none of the applications looked, felt, or worked alike. He proposed the formation of not only a set of applications, but rather a desktop environment, in which users could expect things to look, feel, and work consistently. He also wanted to make this desktop easy to use; one of his complaints with desktop applications of the time was that his girlfriend could not use them. His initial Usenet post spurred a lot of interest, and the KDE project was born.[4]

The name KDE was intended as a word play on the existing Common Desktop Environment, available for Unix systems. CDE was an X11-based user environment jointly developed by HP, IBM, and Sun, through the X/Open Company, with an interface and productivity tools based on the Motif graphical widget toolkit. It was supposed to be an intuitively easy-to-use desktop computer environment.[5] The K was originally suggested to stand for "Kool", but it was quickly decided that the K should stand for nothing in particular - thus the KDE acronym expanded to "K Desktop Environment". Additionally, one of the tips in certain versions of KDE 3 incorrectly states that the K currently is just meant to be the letter before L in the Latin alphabet, the first letter in the word Linux (which is where KDE is usually run).[6]. In 2009 it was decided that KDE should no longer be an acronym at all, the decision comes after the ports to Windows and Mac OS X and popular applications such as Amarok which meant KDE was no longer just a desktop.

Matthias Ettrich chose to use the Qt toolkit for the KDE project. Other programmers quickly started developing KDE/Qt applications, and by early 1997, a few applications were being released.

First series

KDE 1.0

On 12 July 1998 KDE 1.0 was released. In the release announcement the KDE team outlined the project and its reasons for creation:

KDE is a network transparent, contemporary desktop environment for UNIX workstations. KDE seeks to fill the need for an easy to use desktop for Unix workstations, similar to the desktop environments found under the MacOS or Window95/NT. We believe that the UNIX operating system is the best operating system available today. In fact UNIX has been the undisputed choice of the information technology professional for many years. When it comes to stability, scalability and openness there is no competition to UNIX. However, the lack of an easy to use contemporary desktop environment for UNIX has prevented UNIX from finding its way onto the desktops of the typical computer user in offices and homes.

With KDE there is now an easy to use, contemporary desktop environment available for UNIX. Together with a free implementation of UNIX such as Linux, UNIX/KDE constitutes a completely free and open computing platform available to anyone free of charge including its source code for anyone to modify. While there will always be room for improvement we believe to have delivered a viable alternative to some of the more commonly found and proprietary operating systems/desktops combination available today. It is our hope that the combination UNIX/KDE will finally bring open, reliable, stable and monopoly free computing to the average computer.

KDE 1.0 Release Announcement[7]

In November 1998, the Qt toolkit was dual-licensed under the free/open source Q Public License (QPL) & a proprietary-license for proprietary software developers. The same year, the KDE Free Qt foundation[8] was created which guarantees that Qt would fall under a variant of the very liberal BSD license should Trolltech cease to exist or no free/open source version of Qt be released during 12 months. Debate continued about compatibility with the GNU General Public License (GPL), so in September 2000, Trolltech made the Unix version of the Qt libraries available under the GPL, in addition to the QPL, which eliminated the concerns of the Free Software Foundation. Trolltech continued to require licenses for developing proprietary software with Qt. The core libraries of KDE are collectively licensed under the GNU LGPL, but the only way for proprietary software to make use of them was to be developed under the terms of the Qt proprietary license.

Second series

KDE 2.0
KDE 3.2 with Konqueror and the About screen. This has been described as a watershed release.[9]
KDE 4.0 with Dolphin and System Settings

The second series of releases, KDE 2, introduced significant technological improvements.[10] These included DCOP (Desktop COmmunication Protocol), KIO, an application I/O library, KParts, a component object model, allowing an application to embed another within itself, and KHTML, an HTML rendering and drawing engine.[10]

Third release

The third series was much larger than the previous series, consisting of six major releases. The API changes between KDE 2 and KDE 3 were comparatively minor, meaning that the KDE 3 can be seen as largely a continuation of the KDE 2 series. All releases of KDE 3 were built upon Qt 3, which was only released under the GPL for Linux and Unix-like operating systems, including Mac OS X. For that reason, KDE 3 was only available on Windows through ports involving an X server. KDE 3.x is marked stable running on Mac OS X since 2008. Unlike KDE 4, however, they require an X11 server to operate.[11]

Fourth series

KDE Software Compilation 4 is based on Qt 4, which is also released under the GPL for Windows and Mac OS X. Therefore KDE SC 4 applications can be compiled and run natively on these operating systems as well. KDE Software compilation 4 on Mac OS X is currently considered beta [12], while on Windows it is not in the final state, so applications can be unsuitable for day to day use yet.[13]

KDE SC 4 includes many new technologies and technical changes. The centerpiece is a redesigned desktop and panels collectively called Plasma which replaces Kicker, KDesktop, and SuperKaramba by integrating their functionality into one piece of technology, and is intended to be more configurable for those wanting to update the decades-old desktop metaphor. There are a number of new frameworks, including Phonon, a new multimedia interface making KDE independent of any one specific media backend, Solid, an API for network and portable devices, and Decibel, a new communication framework to integrate all communication protocols into the desktop. Also featured is a metadata and search framework, incorporating Strigi as a full-text file indexing service, and NEPOMUK with KDE integration.[14]

The release of KDE 4.0 was met with a mixed reception. While early adopters were tolerant of the lack of finish for some of its new features, the release was widely criticized because of a lack of stability and its "beta" quality[citation needed] (to the point of some influential users -such as Steven Vaughan-Nichols- calling for a fork of KDE 3.5)[15][16]. Many expected it to be an upgrade of KDE 3.5, when in fact features regressed due to its extensive changes - some of which are still works in progress as of 2010. The criticism has emerged in spite of the environment being labeled as non-final in distributions such as openSUSE. On the other hand favourable reviews praised KDE 4.0 for its revolutionary changes. The release was generally well-received according to Thom Holwerda.[17]

Starting with Qt 4.5, Qt was also made available under the LGPL version 2.1[18], a major step for KDE adoption in corporate and proprietary environments. This allows KDE to better compete with GNOME, Xfce and EDE which use toolkits licensed under the LGPL, because the LGPL permits proprietary applications to link to libraries licensed under the LGPL.


Like many free/open source software projects, KDE is primarily a volunteer effort, although various companies, such as Novell (in the form of SuSE), Qt Software, and Mandriva, employ developers to work on the project. Since a large number of individuals contribute to KDE in various ways (e.g. code, translation, artwork), organization of such a project is complex. Most problems are discussed on a number of different mailing lists. Important decisions, such as release dates and inclusion of new applications, are made on the kde-core-devel list by core developers. These are developers who have made significant contributions to KDE over a long period of time. Decisions are made by outcomes of democratic voting procedures.[19] In most cases this seems to work well, and major debates (such as the question of whether the KDE 2 API should be broken in favour of KDE 3) are rare.

The KDE project and related events are frequently sponsored by individuals, universities, and businesses.[20] On 15 October 2006, it was announced that Mark Shuttleworth had become the first patron of KDE, the highest level of sponsorship available.[21] On 2007-07-07, it was announced that Intel Corporation and Novell had also become patrons of KDE.[22]

While developers and users are now located all over the world, the project retains a strong base in Germany. The web servers are located at the universities of Tübingen and Kaiserslautern, a German non-profit organization (KDE e.V.) owns the trademark on KDE and KDE conferences often take place in Germany.


Konqi, mascot of the KDE project
Kandalf the wizard

Many KDE applications have a K in the name, mostly as an initial letter and capitalized. However, there are notable exceptions like kynaptic, whose K is not capitalized, and Amarok (formerly named amaroK). The K in many KDE applications is obtained by spelling a word which originally begins with C or Q differently, for example Konsole and Kommander. Also, some just prefix a commonly used word with a K, for instance KOffice. Among KDE 4 applications and technologies, however, the trend is not to have a K in the name at all, such as Plasma and Dolphin.

The KDE project's mascot is a green dragon named Konqi. Kandalf the wizard was the former mascot for the KDE project during its 1.x and 2.x versions, but he was dropped due to copyright issues (his resemblance to Gandalf).

Brand repositioning

KDE brand map

On November 24, 2009 the KDE Marketing Team announced [23] an official rebranding of the KDE project components, motivated by the perceived shift from building a desktop environment to a complete project around a community of "people who create software". The rebranding focused on de-emphasizing the desktop environment as "just another product", and emphasizing both the community and the other technologies provided as KDE software.

After the repositioning, the name KDE loses the old K Desktop Environment acronym and now acts as an umbrella brand for the hierarchy of different brands for software components:

  • KDE Platform for the libraries and services.
  • KDE Applications for products built on top of the KDE Platform. The new brand is intended to emphasize that KDE apps can potentially be portable between operating systems and independent of a particular workspace or desktop environment.
  • KDE Workspaces for different available GUI environments, either following the desktop metaphor or adapted to other metaphors and devices such as netbooks and smartphones.
  • KDE Software Compilation for the coordinated releases of new software versions, gathering elements from the previous components to build an integrated core of software. What would have been previously known as KDE 4.4 will now be referred as "KDE Software Compilation 4.4" (abbreviated "KDE SC 4.4").


KDE is built using the Qt toolkit which runs on most Unix and Unix-like systems, Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. Both KDE and GNOME now participate in, an effort to standardize Unix desktop interoperability.[24]

Cornelius Schumacher, a KDE main developer,[25] wrote about the estimated cost (using the COCOMO model with SLOCCount) to develop KDE with 4,273,291 LoC, which would be about US$175,364,716.[26] This estimation doesn't include Qt, KOffice, Amarok, Digikam, and other applications that are not part of KDE core.

Source code

KDE releases are made to the FTP server[27] in the form of source code with configure scripts, which are compiled by operating system vendors and integrated with the rest of their systems before distribution. Most vendors use only stable and tested versions of KDE, and provide it in the form of easily installed, pre-compiled packages. The source code of every stable and development version of KDE is stored in the KDE Subversion source code repository.[28]

Release cycle

Timeline of major releases
Date Release
14 October 1996 Project announced by Matthias Ettrich[29]
12 July 1998 KDE 1.0 released[7]
6 February 1999 KDE 1.1 released[30]
23 October 2000 KDE 2.0 released[10]
26 February 2001 KDE 2.1 released[31]
15 August 2001 KDE 2.2 released[32]
3 April 2002 KDE 3.0 released[33]
28 January 2003 KDE 3.1 released[34]
3 February 2004 KDE 3.2 released[35]
19 August 2004 KDE 3.3 released[36]
16 March 2005 KDE 3.4 released[37]
29 November 2005 KDE 3.5 released[38]
11 January 2008 KDE 4.0 released[39]
29 July 2008 KDE 4.1 released[40]
27 January 2009 KDE 4.2 released[41]
4 August 2009 KDE 4.3 released[42]
9 February 2010 KDE SC 4.4 released [43]
The Kontact personal information manager and Konqueror file manager/web browser running on KDE 3.5

The KDE team releases new versions on a regular basis.

Platform releases

Platform releases are major releases that begin a series (version number X.0). These releases are allowed to break both binary and source code compatibility with the predecessor, or to put it differently, all following releases (X.1, X.2, ...) will guarantee source & binary compatibility (API & ABI). This means, for instance, that software that was developed for KDE 3.0 will work on all (future) KDE 3 releases, in contrast to an application that was developed for KDE 2, which is not guaranteed to be able to make use of the KDE 3 libraries. KDE major version numbers follow the Qt release cycle, meaning that KDE 4 is based on Qt 4, while KDE 3 was based on Qt 3.

Standard releases

There are two main types of releases, major releases and maintenance releases.

Major releases (with two version numbers, for example 3.5) contain new features. As soon as a major release is ready and announced, work on the next major release starts. A major release needs several months to be finished and many bugs that are fixed during this time are backported to the stable branch, meaning that these fixes are incorporated into the last stable release by maintenance releases. Starting with the KDE 4 series, KDE has a major release roughly every six months.

Maintenance releases have three version numbers, e.g. KDE 1.1.1, and focus on fixing bugs, minor glitches and making small usability improvements. Maintenance releases in general do not allow new features although some releases include small enhancements. A shortened release schedule is used. Starting with the KDE 4 series, KDE has a maintenance release roughly every month, except during the month of a major release.


Major applications for KDE include:

For more applications, see list of KDE applications.

Base technologies

  • KDELibs
  • KHTML - HTML engine
  • KIO - extensible network-transparent file access
  • Kiosk - allows disabling features within KDE to create a more controlled environment
  • KParts - lightweight in-process graphical component framework
  • KWin - window manager
  • XMLGUI - allows defining UI elements such as menus and toolbars via XML files

Technologies added in KDE SC 4

  • Phonon - multimedia framework
  • Plasma - desktop and panel widget engine
  • Solid - device integration framework
  • Sonnet - spell checker
  • ThreadWeaver - library to use multiprocessor systems more effectively

Technologies superseded in KDE SC 4

See also


  1. ^ Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named kde-windows; see Help:Cite error.
  2. ^ "KDE 4 Mac". KDE. July 7, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-08. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ (14 October 1996). "New Project: Kool Desktop Environment (KDE)". de.comp.os.linux.misc. (Web link). Retrieved on 2006-12-29.
  5. ^ "COSE Update FYI". Retrieved 2007-09-25. 
  6. ^ "Bug#26414: incorrect tip KDE acronym". Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  7. ^ a b "KDE 1.0 Release Announcement". Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  8. ^ "KDE Free Qt Foundation". Retrieved 2007-01-26. 
  9. ^ Aaron Seigo. "milestones". Retrieved 2008-11-10. 
  10. ^ a b c KDE 2.0 Release Announcement
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  15. ^ "KDE: It’s time for a fork". 
  16. ^ Ryan Paul. "The critics are wrong: KDE 4 doesn't need a fork". Ars Technica. 
  17. ^ KDE 4.2, NVIDIA, SkyOS, Dead Like Me
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Sponsorship Thanks". Retrieved 2006-10-16. 
  21. ^ "Mark Shuttleworth Becomes the First Patron of KDE (link broken. Using link". KDE. 15 October 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-16. 
  22. ^ "Intel and Novell Become Patrons of KDE". KDE. July 7, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-08. 
  23. ^ "Repositioning the KDE Brand". 
  24. ^ "A tale of two desktops". PC Authority.,a-tale-of-two-desktops.aspx. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  25. ^ People Behind KDE » Cornelius Schumacher
  26. ^ 4,273,291 lines of code
  27. ^ "KDE stable release ftp server". 
  28. ^ "Information about the KDE source code repository". 
  29. ^ Matthias Ettrich original posting
  30. ^ KDE News Archive for February 1999 referring to the release of version 1.1
  31. ^ KDE press release for version 2.1
  32. ^ KDE press release for version 2.2
  33. ^ KDE press release for version 3.0
  34. ^ KDE press release for version 3.1
  35. ^ KDE press release for version 3.2
  36. ^ KDE press release for version 3.3
  37. ^ KDE press release for version 3.4
  38. ^ KDE press release for version 3.5
  39. ^ "KDE 4.0 Release Schedule". Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  40. ^ "KDE 4.1 Release Schedule". Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  41. ^ "KDE 4.2 Release Schedule". Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  42. ^ "KDE 4.3 Release Schedule". Retrieved 2009-08-04. 
  43. ^ "KDE 4.4 README". Retrieved 2009-08-04. 

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address