|K Desktop Environment|
|Developer:||The KDE Team|
|Programming Language:||C++ and Qt|
|Platform:||Cross-platform (Linux, BSD, Solaris, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X)|
|Language:||Multilingual (more than 80 different languages)|
|License:||GNU General Public License and others|
KDE (K Desktop Environment) () is a free software project based around its flagship product, a desktop environment for Unix-like systems. 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. 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.
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 computerenvironment. The K was originally suggested to stand for "Kool", but it was quickly decided that the K should stand for nothing in particular. 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).
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.
On 12 July 1998 KDE 1.0 was released. In the release announcement the KDE team outlined the project and its reasons for creation:
In November 1998, the Qt toolkit was dual-licensed under the free/open source Q Public License (QPL) & a commercial-license for proprietary software developers. The same year, the KDE Free Qt foundation 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.
The second series of releases, KDE 2, introduced significant technological improvements. 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.
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 4 is based on Qt 4 which is also released under the GPL for Windows and Mac OS X. Therefore KDE 4 applications can be compiled and run natively on these operating systems as well.
KDE 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.
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 criticised because of a lack of stability and its "beta" quality. 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. The criticism has emerged in spite of the environment being labelled as non-final in distributions such as openSUSE. On the other hand favourable reviews praised KDE 4.0 for its revolutionary changes.
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 not made by a formal voting process, but by discussion on the mailing lists. 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. On 15 October 2006, it was announced that Mark Shuttleworth had become the first patron of KDE, the highest level of sponsorship available. On 2007-07-07, it was announced that Intel Corporation and Novell had also become patrons of KDE.
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.
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 Kuickshow. 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, Phonon and Dolphin.
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 freedesktop.org, an effort to standardize Unix desktop interoperability, although there is still some competition between them.
|Timeline of major releases|
|14 October 1996||Project announced by Matthias Ettrich|
|12 July 1998||KDE 1.0 released|
|6 February 1999||KDE 1.1 released|
|23 October 2000||KDE 2.0 released|
|26 February 2001||KDE 2.1 released|
|15 August 2001||KDE 2.2 released|
|3 April 2002||KDE 3.0 released|
|28 January 2003||KDE 3.1 released|
|3 February 2004||KDE 3.2 released|
|19 August 2004||KDE 3.3 released|
|16 March 2005||KDE 3.4 released|
|29 November 2005||KDE 3.5 released|
|11 January 2008||KDE 4.0 released|
|29 July 2008||KDE 4.1 released|
|27 January 2009||KDE 4.2 released|
The KDE team releases new versions on a regular basis.
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.
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.
Qt, to which native graphical KDE applications link for their graphical widgets, is free software, dual-licensed under the GNU GPL versions 2 and 3, and QPL licenses. Trolltech also sells licenses for developing proprietary software. When using the free versions, programs which link to Qt must be released as free software (under the GPL or another license permitted by the QPL, such as the BSD or LGPL for example). The core libraries of KDE are collectively licensed under the GNU LGPL, although unless the license of Qt is changed (for example, if the agreement made with the KDE Free Qt foundation is invoked) the only way for commercial software to make use of them is to be developed under the terms of the Qt commercial license.
It is not necessary to use Qt or the KDE libraries to write software which integrates well with the KDE desktop. Software using any other toolkit, following the freedesktop.org standards or using KDE facilities such as KPrinter and KDialog can integrate nicely with the KDE desktop (both KPrinter and KDialog link to Qt, and are under the GPL); however, the widgets will not have the exact behavior of Qt widgets. Additional integration efforts are being discussed in the Portland Free Desktop initiative, and are planned for KDE 4.
Some other free/open source desktop platforms (such as GNOME, Xfce and EDE) use toolkits licensed under the LGPL. The LGPL permits proprietary/closed source applications to link to libraries licensed under the LGPL, with some restrictions: the Section 6 of the LGPL v2.1 prohibits linking to software with a license that restricts reverse-engineering and modification of the work for the customer's own use. The proprietary Qt license which Trolltech sells does not carry these restrictions.
Starting with Qt 4.5, Qt will also be available under the LGPL version 2.1, a major step for KDE adoption in corporate and commercial environments.