KDE吸引了許多不同背景的人。日積月累成長的 KDE 社群由很多開發者、翻譯人員、藝術家以及可用性和易用性專家組成。當然，還有許許多多的使用者。
One main driving force behind KDE is the belief in the open source philosophy. As is defined by the Open Source Initiative 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.
儘管有些 KDE 開發是有支付薪資，但大部分 KDE 開發是免費、自願和業餘時間。因此，KDE 框架的設計是高品質、完整和一致性，簡單的 KDE 程式可以由非常少的程式碼寫出。
儘管大多數 KDE 開發是由閒暇時間完成的，但一些公司（如諾基亞和英特爾）贊助資金或開發時間。這些贊助讓 KDE 能繼續開發，用於推廣 KDE 和提供資金給 aKademy 等舉辦活動。
KDE 是建立在 Qt 之上，一個由諾基亞創造的跨平台應用程式框架。KDE是開放原始碼軟體，函式庫使用 Gnu Lesser General Public License，應用程式使用Gnu General Public License。Qt 則是雙重授權， 需要購買的諾基亞商業授權和開放原始碼的Gnu Lesser General Public License。
由於諾基亞提供基於Gnu Lesser General Public License 的 Qt。它不收費並允許自由或私有軟體連結它。因此 KDE 得到免費的高品質應用程式框架。
由於 Gnu Lesser General Public License 所列的部分條文，諾基亞提供 Qt 的原始碼。正因為如此，許多貢獻給諾基亞的改進和 bug 修正是來自 KDE。此外，從 Qt 4.4 開始成為一部分的 Phonon多媒體層，是源自 KDE。即使它在 KDE 仍持續開發。因此，KDE 獲得免費的高品質應用程式框架，諾基亞獲得免費的、高品質的開發人員和測試。