KDE吸引了许多不同背景的人。因此，每天日益增长的KDE社区有很多开发员, 翻译, 艺术家以及可用性专家当然，还有许许多多用户。
KDE的主要原动力之一就是开源理念。正如开源社区（Open Source Initiative）所述：Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in. KDE is a defining example of Open source, because of it's high quality, well-known flexibility, lack of price, and collaboration with other Open source projects through initiatives such as freedesktop.org.
Free software is the other main driving force. Despite many similarities, "Open Source Software" and "Free Software" are not the same initiative. As the Free Software Foundation says: Free software is software that gives you the user the freedom to share, study and modify it. We call this free software because the user is free. To use free software is to make a political and ethical choice asserting the right to learn, and share what we learn with others. Free software is usually also Open source software, as Open source software is also Free software. However, Open source focuses more on the technical advantages, whereas Free software focuses more on the ethical aspects. Both philosophies are major driving forces behind KDE development.
A minor and relatively new driving force, Free Culture is also a driving force behind parts of KDE. As it is defined in Wikipedia The free culture movement is a social movement that promotes the freedom to distribute and modify creative works, using the Internet as well as other media. The movement objects to overly restrictive copyright laws, or completely reject the concepts of copyright and intellectual property, which many members of the movement also argue hinder creativity. They call this system "permission culture". The free culture movement holds many of the same ideals as Free Software. All Free Culture supporters support Free Software, though not all Free Software supporters support Free Culture.
尽管有些 KDE 开发是有支付薪资，但大部分 KDE 开发是免费、自愿和业余时间。因此，KDE 框架的设计是高质量、完整和一致性，简单的 KDE 程序可以由非常少的程序代码写出。
KDE 是建立在 Qt 之上，一个由诺基亚创造的跨平台应用程序框架。KDE是开放原始码软件，函式库使用 Gnu Lesser General Public License，应用程序使用Gnu General Public License。Qt 则是双重授权， 需要购买的诺基亚商业授权和开放原始码的Gnu Lesser General Public License。
由于诺基亚提供基于Gnu Lesser General Public License 的 Qt。它不收费并允许自由或私有软件链接它。因此 KDE 得到免费的高质量应用程序框架。
由于 Gnu Lesser General Public License 所列的部分条文，诺基亚提供 Qt 的原始码。正因为如此，许多贡献给诺基亚的改进和 bug 修正是来自 KDE。此外，从 Qt 4.4 开始成为一部分的 Phonon多媒体层，是源自 KDE。即使它在 KDE 仍持续开发。因此，KDE 获得免费的高质量应用程序框架，诺基亚获得免费的、高质量的开发人员和测试。