This page is under construction. Don't expect any information you find on this page to be useful. Quite the opposite may be the case...

Go here for released version of this page.

--DanielHL 20:50, 26 February 2008 (CET)

Building KDE4 From Source
Tutorial Series   Getting Started
Previous   [[../../Sources/Anonymous_SVN|Anonymous SVN Quickstart Guide]]
What's Next   [[../../Getting_Started/Using_an_IDE_with_KDE4|Use an IDE for KDE 4 for development]]
Further Reading   kdesvn-build: The KDE From Subversion Build Tool
[[../../Increased_Productivity_in_KDE4_with_Scripts|Increased Productivity in KDE4 with Scripts]]
Introduction to CMake
FreeBSD notes
Instructions for Mac OS X
Instructions for MS Windows


This tutorial shows one way to get KDE from trunk running on Linux/BSD systems. There are also tutorials for FreeBSD, Windows, Mac OS X and Solaris. Throughout the tutorial the bash shell is used.

Expect a higher risk of build failure on Mondays when most kdelibs changes are committed. Dashboard reports unexpected breakages. You are encouraged to fix failing modules.

Create a user account for KDE4 development

Some people like to have a separate user account for KDE 4 (for instance an old bug deleted files by mistake), and the instructions below were written with that approach.

However it is much more efficient to do everything with a single user account, see Increased Productivity in KDE4 with Scripts for more details.

You can still follow the instructions below, but don't put the environment variables in your .bashrc, put them in a separate file that you source to switch to the KDE 4 environment.

Option 1: Command Line

On some systems a new user is configured by default to use /bin/sh. Using /bin/sh can be very inconvenient to work with and you may want to change it to /bin/bash or another shell. On Ark Linux and Fedora, you can skip the -s /bin/bash switch - /bin/sh is bash.

useradd -m kde-devel -s /bin/bash passwd kde-devel

The new kde-devel user will not be added automatically to all the user groups, which will result in not having sound, not being able to sudo, etc. Edit your /etc/groups file to add the kde-devel user to all the groups that you need (probably the groups that your usual username is already assigned to).

Option 2: Using KControl

Instead of using the commands above, you can also use the User module in the KDE Control Center if you already have KDE3 installed.

Setting up the environment

Copy the ~/.bashrc from your normal user account to the new kde-devel account. Next, copy and paste the contents of the example .bashrc into ~kde-devel/.bashrc. Be sure to comment out the line alias make=makeobj if you do not have the makeobj command available. Alternatively, you can download the kde-sdk package (or perform a subversion checkout) and include the kde-sdk/scripts/ directory in your path. You will probably also want to modify the path to make sure it doesn't include your kde3 paths. Also if you want to use KDevelop to develop KDE 4 applications you may pass the -GKDevelop3 flag to the cmake command (to make CMake generate KDevelop project files, it will help to avoid rebuilding in the future, see this). To make it run, you have to open a new bash or to execute source ~/.bashrc

This will provide access to commands such as cmakekde that are used in this tutorial as well as ensure that the proper paths are in place for Qt, KDE and CMake binaries.

For more information, please read the Getting Started/Increased Productivity in KDE4 with Scripts tutorial.

Switching to the New User

Switch to the user kde-devel: (don't forget the dash) ssh -X [email protected]

Required packages from your distribution

The requirements to build kde4 from source vary from distribution to distribution. Instructions for your distribution are provided below:

Your next compilation step depends on the packages supplied by your distro.

Compiling qt-copy, HAL etc.

If you do not want to use the packages provided by your distro you can compile things like Qt yourself. Instructions for building all dependencies including HAL, Cmake, Qt4 (qt-copy) and kde-support are available in the build prerequisites page.

Building KDE for development or stable use

The commands below are used to build the latest unstable version of KDE from trunk. This should not be used in a production environment, but is recommended for developers.

To build the stable version of KDE4, change the svn checkout commands below to branches/KDE/4.0/ instead of trunk/KDE/, ie:

svn checkout svn://
svn checkout svn://
svn checkout svn://



We can now move on to building KDE's base libraries.

The Recipe

cs # 'cs' is a bash function, click here to learn more
mkdir KDE && cd KDE
svn checkout svn://
cd kdelibs

What's Happening

We change to the base source directory (line 1) then make and go into the KDE directory (line 2). We download the sources for kdelibs using subversion (line 3), go into the new ~/kde/src/KDE/kdelibs directory (line 4), and commence the build (line 5). This will leave us in the kdelibs build directory after the build is completed.

There might be missing dependencies on your system! They are easily overlooked in the output of cmakekde. You might want to do a cmake $KDE_SRC/KDE/MODULE_NAME prior to compiling any kde modules (like kdelibs, kdepimlibs etc.)

Additional KDE-specific CMake know-how

There are additional CMake modules in kdelibs/cmake/modules/ that are necessary for building KDE4 applications. These will be installed for you when kdelibs itself is installed.

To make a non-debug-release (e.g. suppressing all kDebug() messages), use e.g.

cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release . && make && make install


For troubleshooting information, see the kdelibs troubleshooting section.


After kdelibs, but before kdebase, you need to build and install kdepimlibs.

The Recipe

cs KDE # 'cs' is a bash function, click here to learn more
svn checkout svn://
cd kdepimlibs

What's Happening

We go into the KDE source directory (line 1), download the source code for kdepimlibs using subversion (line 2) and then go into the new ~/kde/src/KDE/kdepimlibs directory (line 3). We then commence the build (line 4). This will leave us in the kdepimlibs build directory after the build is completed.


For troubleshooting information, see the kdepimlibs troubleshooting section.


kdebase is divided into three parts:

  • apps
This contains applications like Dolphin or KWrite.
  • runtime
This contains things needed by every application at runtime, like icons. It is a required dependency for each KDE application, so you have to compile and install this.
  • workspace
This contains things specific to the KDE desktop, like Plasma or the window manager. Most stuff here depends on X11. You only need it if you want to build a full KDE desktop.

You can build all of kdebase at once, which is described in the recipe below. If you only want to build kdebase-runtime, which is the only requirement, you can replace cd kdebase with cd kdebase/runtime in the recipe below.

The Recipe

cs KDE # 'cs' is a bash function, click here to learn more
svn checkout svn://
cd kdebase


For troubleshooting information, see the kdebase troubleshooting section.

Running KDE 4 programs

You can now run KDE 4 programs (e.g. kwrite) by typing:

ssh -X [email protected]


For troubleshooting issues see troubleshooting running programs.

Generating local API documentation

Although the API documentation for KDE is available online at, it is sometimes useful to have it on your own disk, for example when you want to use KDevelop for browsing the documentation or when you are not able to be online all the time.

Be aware that generating the API documentation can take several hours and takes almost half a gigabyte of diskspace. The generation is handled by a script in kdelibs/doc/api, you need doxygen to be able to run it.

To build the API documentation for kdelibs, type the following:

cs KDE/kdelibs # 'cs' is a bash function, click here to learn more
$KDE_SRC/KDE/kdelibs/doc/api/ \
--doxdatadir=$KDE_SRC/KDE/kdelibs/doc/common .

You will notice a new subdirectory called kdelibs-apidocs is created for you. Simply copy that directory to whereever you want your API documentation to be stored.

Repeat for other modules (eg. kdepimlibs, kdevplatform, etc) as desired. For example:

cs KDE/kdepimlibs
$KDE_SRC/KDE/kdelibs/doc/api/ \
--doxdatadir=$KDE_SRC/KDE/kdelibs/doc/common .

Another, even easier method involves downloading this Doxyfile to your local system. Then simply change directory to where you want to create the documentation and run % doxygen /path/to/Doxyfile Then review the file doxygen.log to see the doxygen errors and warnings. You'll find the actual documentation in the apidocs subdirectory.

Staying up to date

In order to keep the kde4 installation up to date, each of the modules installed should be updated periodically. As Monday is the day for big changes in kdelibs, Tuesday may be the best day to do this. For each module checked out, run svn up and make.

For example: cs kdesupport # cs is not a typo svn up cb # cb is not a typo make install

Note: it is not necessary to run cmakekde for updates.

Installing a subset of a module

Many modules in KDE contain a large number of programs which could take a long time to download and compile. In cases where you want to work only on a particular program or programs in a module, it is possible to download and compile particular folders. In some cases, certain folders are required for any build of the module. This is determined in the CMakeLists.txt file of the module. For example the kdegames CMakeLists.txt file lists:

add_subdirectory(libkdegames) add_subdirectory(libkmahjongg)

macro_optional_add_subdirectory(doc) macro_optional_add_subdirectory(lskat) macro_optional_add_subdirectory(katomic)

So, the libkdegames and libkmahjongg directories are required to build any of kdegames. The cmake directory will also usually be required. All the other directories (doc, katomic etc) are optional. They will be built if present on your machine. In this example, we build kmahjongg and kbattleship:

cs KDE svn co -N kdegames # The -N switch performs a non-recursive checkout cd kdegames svn up libkdegames # Get required directories svn up libkmahjongg svn up cmake svn up kbattleship # Get optional directories svn up kmahjongg cmakekde


You are now ready to start building other svn modules in the same fashion as you built kdebase, running and testing KDE4 or writing your own patches and applications.

See the Set up KDevelop for development tutorial for how to start KDE 4 applications and how to use KDevelop to work on them.

This page was last edited on 15 July 2012, at 10:52. Content is available under Creative Commons License SA 4.0 unless otherwise noted.