< Getting Started‎ | Build
Revision as of 08:01, 17 February 2011 by JRT (talk | contribs)

Getting Started/Build/KDE4


The commands below are used to build the latest UNSTABLE version of KDE from TRUNK.

This should not be used in a production environment -- not recommended for daily use.

To build a stable KDE-4 version, go to:

upgrading to KDE-4.x from KDE-3.x


Upgrade KDE-4.x.y release version or KDE-4.x repository BRANCH)
which is currently under construction.

If you are new here, we recommend following this kdesrc-build tutorial. It's the most hassle free method, and will help you get up and running in no time. It even has neat progress indicators for compiling modules - what's not to like about it. It was previously called kdesvn-build.


Assuming you are still here...this tutorial shows a labor intensive way to get KDE from trunk running on Linux/BSD systems.

There are also tutorials for FreeBSD, Windows, Mac OS X and Solaris. This tutorial creates a special user, kde-devel, that will run KDE trunk. On the one hand, this allows other users to continue with another KDE version. On the other hand, testing special system-wide code like the KDE display manager is not possible. There is a tutorial to set up KDE 4 trunk on a virtual machine.

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

It is important to keep the development version from interfering with the rest of your computer, The method covered here is creating a dedicated kde-devel user.

We will need to:

#Add the user
#Set the shell to bash
#and may have to use sudoedit if we want to be able to sudo
#Create a .bashrc file with environment variables for the build system

A graphical tool is avalable from most distributions, if you have KDE you can get to this tool via: K->Computer->System Settings->User Management

Less Safe Alternative:

One can do everything under your normal user account. This is recommended, as a separate user is quite a bit of work.

See Increased Productivity in KDE4 with Scripts for more details.

The environment variables determinate what version you use. Proceed same as here except put the environment variables in a file. In your .bashrc file add the line source .kde_devel_env. renaming the .kde_devel_env file would make them not be loaded, so you wouldn't use the devel version.

Commandline useradd

Some systems are configured to use /bin/sh. Many users prefer Bash/bin/bash

On Ark Linux and Fedora, you can skip the -s /bin/bash switch - /bin/sh is bash.

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

commandline permissions and groups

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).

You may need to add user to sudoers file. (beyond scope of this tutorial)

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. (What is this, how do we know???)

Alternatively, you can download the kde-sdk a.k.a kdesdk package (or perform a subversion checkout) and include the kde-sdk/scripts/ directory in your path. (What is this???)

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.

Using the kde-devel User

To get a text-only command prompt, say from konsole

su - kde-devel

'(need hyphen otherwise your environment will be the same as your regular user)

To Log in Text-only from a virtual terminal:

CTRL-F1  ( CTRL-F7 is normally graphical )

To use a shell that can pop up applications when your normal user is logged in: ssh -X [email protected]

If the ssh command fails, check out the Launching KDE 4 apps section of the KDE4 development guide.

Required packages from your distribution

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

Ark Linux, Arch Linux, Chakra, Fedora, Kubuntu and Debian (or check out Project Neon), openSUSE (specific guide for openSUSE. However be careful because it updates a huge number of your stable packages.), Gentoo, Linux from Scratch or to build from source. Mandriva any other distro

Optional Documentation Dependencies

For trunk you also now need docbook-dtd42-xml for the docs. Depending on your distribution please get the docbook related packages and the 4.2 DTD.

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

Compiling kde-qt, 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 CMake, Qt4 (kde-qt) and kdesupport are available in the build prerequisites page. Note that automoc, strigi, soprano, and a few other things are part of kdesupport, so if you have errors about these missing, you'll need to get kdesupport.

Useful subversion tweaks

Do not use this method when you don't know what you are doing or just want to test some trunk feature, seriously! You can create a very costly load when you accidentially checkout all of trunk or for example all of "trunk/KDE" just to build single modules. This would generate immense useless load on the svn server.

If you check out large parts of svn trunk regularly or if you want to create patches which touch several modules at once, you should try to checkout an empty tree of trunk first and then update only the relevant modules, for example:


cs # 'cs' is a bash function, click here to learn more
svn checkout --depth empty svn://anonsvn.kde.org/home/kde/trunk
cd trunk
svn up kdesupport && cd kdesupport
cs trunk
svn up --depth empty KDE
svn up KDE/kdelibs && cd KDE/kdelibs
cs trunk
svn up KDE/kdepimlibs

Why do I want to do that?

That way you can move stuff around all over the trunk repository, e.g. from playground to kdereview or to KDE/*. The following examples assume that you only want to test or work on single and few modules of trunk.

This way updating the whole repository to a (hopefully) consitent state, the same revision, is really easy:

cs trunk # 'cs' is a bash function, click here to learn more
svn up

Download and Compile

In this section we go over acquiring and building the product.

check out http://kdesvn-build.kde.org/ you may not need to do all of this stuff.


Please note, that requirements and dependancies frequently change. You are running an UNSTABLE version, and simply compiling is not guaranteed. You will need to review errors and locate packages, (see acquire dependencies above) and Troubleshooting information.

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


Very important for lots of things, you may need to see troubleshooting and install some things from kdesupport first.

The Recipe

cs # 'cs' is a bash function, click here to learn more
mkdir KDE && cd KDE
svn checkout svn://anonsvn.kde.org/home/kde/trunk/KDE/kdelibs
cd kdelibs
mkdir build
cd build
cmakekde ..

What's Happening

We change to the base source directory (line 1) then make and go into the KDE directory (line 3). We download the sources for kdelibs using subversion (line 4), go into the new ~/kde/src/KDE/kdelibs directory (line 5), and commence the build (line 6). 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.


Currently kdebase depends on kdepimlibs so it is required to install it first. These libraries are also shared by other packages such as those within kdepim, kdeutils and kdenetwork.


Download libical from http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=16077, compile, link and install it.

tar xvzf libical-0.41.tar.gz
cd libical-0.41
./configure && make && make install

The Recipe

cs KDE # 'cs' is a bash function, click here to learn more
svn checkout svn://anonsvn.kde.org/home/kde/trunk/KDE/kdepimlibs
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://anonsvn.kde.org/home/kde/trunk/KDE/kdebase
cd kdebase


For troubleshooting information, see the kdebase troubleshooting section.


Most KDE users are going to install translations before being able to use their desktop properly. Full information is given in the Localisation tutorial. For a single language, the following receipe installs messages and translated documentation:

The Recipe

cs KDE # 'cs' is a bash function, click here to learn more
svn checkout -N svn://anonsvn.kde.org/home/kde/trunk/l10n-kde4
cd l10n-kde4
svn up scripts <language>
./scripts/autogen.sh <language>
cd <language>

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

See the generating apidox page.

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 && 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 svn://anonsvn.kde.org/home/kde/trunk/KDE/kdegames # The -N switch performs a non-recursive checkout cd kdegames svn co svn://anonsvn.kde.org/home/kde/trunk/KDE/kdegames/libkdegames # Get required directories svn co svn://anonsvn.kde.org/home/kde/trunk/KDE/kdegames/libkmahjongg svn co svn://anonsvn.kde.org/home/kde/trunk/KDE/kdegames/cmake svn co svn://anonsvn.kde.org/home/kde/trunk/KDE/kdegames/kbattleship # Get optional directories svn co svn://anonsvn.kde.org/home/kde/trunk/KDE/kdegames/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.

For further isolation of your development environment change symbolic links, which you will see after executing ls -lh $(kde4-config --localprefix), assuming newly installed kde4-config is called.

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

For most of what you need to know on patches see: Sending Patches

This page was last edited on 20 March 2011, at 16:34. Content is available under Creative Commons License SA 4.0 unless otherwise noted.