Getting Started/Using an IDE with KDE4

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KDevelop 3 (outdated by KDevelop 4)

This section will explain how to use KDevelop 3.4 to develop KDE 4 applications. If you have any questions, corrections or rants about this section, please post them on the discussion page.


You need at least KDevelop 3.4 for this, which is still a KDE 3 application. Versions lower than 3.4 do not have Qt 4 support among other things. You can get KDevelop at the KDevelop homepage. Make sure you install KDevelop like all other KDE 3 applications, not with your kde-devel user.

You also need the lastest GDB version, which is currently 6.6.0. Note that the GDB version which is shipped with openSuse 10.3 is broken, it constantly crashes when examining variables (which KDevelop does automatically). Use the GDB version from this repository instead.

You need to have the kdelibs API documentation locally, which is described in the build instructions.

You also need ctags, htdig, htmerge and htsearch. valgrind and callgrind can also be useful.

Be sure you followed the steps in the KDE 4 build instructions and have a working KDE 4 environment. Make sure simple KDE 4 applications like Konsole or KWrite can be started from the command line of the kde-devel user without problems.

The following steps are all done with the kde-devel user. You need to login as that user by typing

su - kde-devel

KDevelop has no native support for CMake projects. Fortunately, CMake has the ability to generate KDevelop project files itself. In order to do this, you need to pass the -GKDevelop3 flag to the cmake command. This tells CMake to generate project files for KDevelop alongside the normal makefiles. The best way to do this is to modify your cmakekde function in your .bashrc. Just change cmake $srcFolder -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=$KDEDIR \ -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=debugfull&& \ make && \ make install; to cmake $srcFolder -GKDevelop3 -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=$KDEDIR \ -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=debugfull&& \ make && \ make install;

After you have done that, re-login so that the changes to the .bashrc file take effect. Then you need to rerun cmakekde in the (root) build directory of the project you want to work on with KDevelop (if you didn't use -GKDevelop3 on the building step). For example, if you want to work on Konsole, which lives in kdebase, you need to run cmakekde in the $KDE_BUILD/KDE/kdebase directory. This unfortunately completely rebuilds everything, but only once when you change the generator.

Since all environment variables of the kde-devel user are KDE 4 specific, these need to be set back to match your KDE 3 environment before starting KDevelop. A simple way to do this is to add the following function to your .bashrc:

function start3app {

 mkdir -p /tmp/$USER-kde
 export PATH=/opt/kde3/bin:/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin:/usr/bin/X11:/usr/games 
 export KDETMP=/tmp/$USER-kde 
 export KDEVARTMP=/var/tmp/$USER-kde 
 export KDEHOME=$HOME/.kde 
 export KDEDIR=/usr 
 export DISPLAY=:0 
 eval "$@"
 source $HOME/.bashrc   #Reset environment variables again


The PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH variables are taken from the KDE 3 user, and they may be different on your system. Type echo $PATH and echo $LD_LIBRARY_PATH as normal KDE 3 user to get these values. The above function assumes that KDE 3 is installed in the /usr prefix, as it is the case on Debian-based systems. If your KDE 3 is installed to a different prefix, you need to change the line setting KDEDIR accordingly. Here's an example how you find out your KDE installation prefix; in this example it is /opt/kde3:

kde-config --prefix /opt/kde3

Now you should be able to start KDevelop by typing start3app kdevelop. Do that now.

You can start any KDE 3 application with the start3app function. Useful candidates include Kompare and kdesvn. However, you can not start KDbg this way to debug KDE 4 applications, since then the environment variables for the debugged application are wrong.


Symptome: kdevelop says "cannot talk to klauncher". You cannot open a file.

Solution: add your KDE library path to LD_LIBRARY_PATH, e.g.:

export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/opt/kde3/lib

Setting up KDevelop

Now that KDevelop has started, you need to adjust a few settings. Go to Settings->Configure KDevelop...->Documentation for this. Remove all entries that are not relevant to KDE 4 coding.

Although environment variables like $HOME are used in this section, you should replace them with real paths because KDevelop does not resolve environment variables.

Optionally, you can add the kdelibs API documentation. You must create it beforehand. Then add the documentation by clicking Add.... In this dialog, use the following settings:

  • Type: Doxygen Documentation Collection (needs to be set first)
  • Location: $KDE_SRC/KDE/kdelibs/kdelibs-apidocs/index.html

Now add the Qt API documentation, which also must be created beforehand, using the following settings:

  • Type: Qt Documentation Collection (needs to be set first)
  • Location: $HOME/qt-copy/doc/html/qt.dcf

After you have added kdelibs and Qt API documentation, make sure all checkboxes (TOC,Index and Search) are enabled. Then, go to the Full Text Search tab and make sure the paths to the htdig, htmerge and htsearch executables are correct. You can then close the settings dialog.

Now it is time to open the project you want to work on by clicking Project->Open Project.... The project files are located in the build directory. For example, if you want to work on Konsole, you need to open $KDE_BUILD/KDE/kdebase/apps/konsole/konsole.kdevelop. You now need to adjust a few project-specific settings in Project->Project Options. You need to do this every time you start to work on a different project.

Sometimes, a KDevelop project file is not present for the folder you want to work on.

This can have several reasons, it depends on how the CMake files are written. Usually, CMake files which have a project(projectname) statement in them should work fine. Once you are familiar enough with CMake, you can try adding the statement.

A workaround for this is to simply use the KDevelop project file of the parent folder, or even higher. In this case, you need to use the Make Active Directory entry in the context menu of the File Selector sidetab. With this, you can ignore the other unwanted folders when building and installing.
  • C++ Support->Code Completion
Here you need to add code completion databases for Qt and kdelibs, and more if you like, for example you might need a database for kdepimlibs when working on kdepim.
For kdelibs, click the Add... button and choose KDevelop Custom Directory PCS Importer, then add your KDE include directory ($HOME/kde/include) to the list and proceed. You can use the file selection dialog and the Add button to add it.
Now, add the database for Qt 4 by selecting KDevelop Qt4 PCS Importer this time. You need to select the Qt 4 include directory, which is $HOME/qt-copy/include.
The Qt4 PCS Importer is only needed if you didn't install Qt4, i.e. you use it directly from the build directory. The drawback of using the Qt4 importer is that it doesn't show progress and the application seems to hang while it imports. The alternative is to use the Custom Directory PCS Importer for this too
  • C++ Support->Qt Options
Check Enable Qt options and choose Qt4 as your version. Set the QMake Binary path to $HOME/qt-copy/bin/qmake. Then choose Qt 4 style as Qt include syntax. Use $HOME/qt-copy/bin/designer as Designer Binary. Make sure to use the Change Plugin Paths dialog to add the plugin directory from KDE so you see the KDE widgets when designer is started. To do this add $HOME/kde/lib/kde4/plugins to the lineedit and then click the Add button.
  • Run Options
Make sure you use the correct binary as Executable. For example, if you want to run Konsole, this is $KDE_BUILD/KDE/kdebase/apps/konsole/src/konsole. You should add --nofork to the Debug Arguments or debugging some applications like KMail will not work at all.
Because the start3app functions changes some environment variables, you need to change them back here so the KDE 4 applications can be run without problems from within KDevelop.
For some applications, like Konsole, this is not strictly necessary, but others like KMail will crash if you do not change this.
Simply click the Add / Copy button to add new environment variables. You will need the following, which are the same as in your .bashrc:
Name Value
PATH $KDEDIR/bin:$QTDIR/bin:/usr/local/bin:$PATH
KDETMP /tmp/$USER-kde4
KDEVARTMP /var/tmp/$USER-kde4

  • Build Options->Build
Make sure the correct build directory is selected. Again, for Konsole, this would be $KDE_BUILD/KDE/kdebase/apps/konsole.
  • Build Options->Make
You might want to check Abort on first error. You also might want to add VERBOSE= or VERBOSE=1 to Additional make options to control the level of verbosity for the build process.
If you have more than one processor or if you have access to an icecream cluster, you might want to check the Run multiple jobs option and set the Number of simultaneous jobs to the number of available processors. This increases the compile speed. It is the same as the -j option for make.
  • Formatting
You should set all options here to match the coding style of the project you are working on.
  • CTags->General
You need to correctly set the Path to ctags binary, which is /usr/bin/ctags on Debian-based systems.
You probably want to enable the When more than one hit, go directly to the first option.

Now you have finished adjusting your project-specific settings. Now you should remove some plugins you do not need, in Settings->Configure Plugins.... I for example disable the following plugins:

Abbreviation Expansion, Code Snippets, Doxygen Support, Embedded Konsole, File Tree, Final Packaging Support, "Open with" Menu Addon, QuickOpen, Regular Expression Tester, Scripting, Security Checker, Shell Filtering and Insertion, Text Structure and Tools Menu Addition.

You should at least disable the bold ones.

Now, open any source file if none is open already. This will enable the Settings->Configure Editor... entry, where you need to set the tab options to match the tab style used by the project you are working on. The important settings are:

  • Appearance->Borders->Show line numbers: Should be checked.
  • Appearance->Borders->Show icon border: Should be checked.
  • Editing->Tabulators
  • Editing->Static Word Wrap->Show marker: Should be checked
  • Indentation->Automatic Indentation->Indentation mode: Should be C Style
  • Indentation in general

In the mainwindow, click the CTags tab on the bottom tabbar, then click the Regenerate button to create a CTags database for easier source code navigation.

Now you have completed all essential configuration, congratulations!

Using KDevelop

Refer to the KDevelop manual for general help using KDevelop. The following section will only deal with special cases for KDE 4.


KDE apps have many symbols, which means that you need a lot of memory to get a decent loading times for debugging. To quote a GDB developer: "I would be reluctant to debug KDE on something with <1GB RAM." If the stepping function of the debugger is slow for you, try the following tips:

  • Hide local variables. The Locals part of the variable tab on the left causes a big slowdown when stepping if you have many local variables. Simple collapse the Locals part of the tree, the local variables are then not updated every step. You can still examine variables by using the Evaluate expression function.
  • Use the patch at It prevents the update of the framestack widget at each step, speeding up stepping considerably. The patch introduces some minor glitches, which is why it is not yet commited.
KDevelop does not yet support modifing the CMake build system. This means you can not use KDevelop to add or remove files from the project or to change any other aspect of your project's build process. You need to modify the CMake files by hand and then rerun cmakekde instead. Read the CMake tutorial to learn how to do this.
When you work on libraries, you first need to install them before you can test or debug your changes.

Since this is cumbersome and time consuming, you should create symlinks (ln -s) pointing from the build directory to the installation directory for all affected libraries.

Often, even simple programs use libraries internally, for example the settings dialog of Konsole is really a library.


KDE4's ktimetracker loaded as eclipse project

This describes how to use Eclipse to develop KDE 4 applications. It has been tested with Eclipse Ganymed and SUSE Linux 11.1 but should work same or similar with every combination. As an example KDE application we use ktimetracker from the kdepim module, other applications short work analog.

Using this description you will be able to

  • update your working copy of KDE source code using the command svn
  • build your KDE module using cmake
  • build your KDE application from within eclipse using make
  • compile and run your application with one click from eclipse
  • get auto-completion when editing KDE source code
  • have an overview and navigation about your classes within eclipse
  • have call trees for your functions

Set up Eclipse with KDE

  • Check your requirements
Trying with a virtual machine I had problems starting Eclipse with less than 1 GB RAM. After assigning 3 GB RAM to my virtual machine, Eclipse finally started.
  • Install eclipse
Download Eclipse IDE for C/C++ developers from We unpack it to /home/user/eclipse.
  • Install the CDT
Download the Eclipse IDE for C/C++ Developers (68 MB) from and unpack it into your eclipse folder, in our case /home/user/eclipse.
  • Download kdepim
As said, we use kdepim as example here. So, download ("checkout") kdepim using svn, e.g. as anonymous:
svn co svn://
We assume you checked out into /home/user/kdepim.
  • Compile kdepim
Compile kdepim so the usual makefiles are present for all kdepim applications. If you have problems doing this, follow our build instructions
  • Import your project into eclipse
Surprise: To import your project, you should not use "File -> Import". Rather do: File -> New -> C++ Project -> Makefile project -> Empty Project -> un-tag "use default location" -> choose /home/user/kdepim/ktimetracker. Call it "ktimetracker".
  • Build your project
Make sure Project -> Properties -> C/C++ Build -> Builder Settings -> Build location -> Build directory is set correctly.
Choose Project -> Build Project
  • Run the project
Choose Project -> Properties -> Run/Debug Settings -> New. As project, enter ktimetracker, as C/C++ Application, enter /home/user/kdepim/ktimetracker/ktimetracker. Choose Apply -> Ok -> Ok. Now you can click on the "Run" button and start it.


Custom builders

If you want to integrate the cmake build step into your build toolchain, you will need to

  • create a custom builder like this:
cat >/bin/eclipsebuild<<EOF
cmake . && make -j4 && make install
chmod 777 /bin/eclipsebuild
  • Add your builder
Choose Project -> Properties -> Builders. Un-tag all existing builders. Click "new" -> Program -> (name it "Builder for KDE"). -> Location: /bin/eclipsebuild -> Working directory /home/user/workspace/myproject1/kdepim.
  • Build
Now you can build your project. Every time after you restarted eclipse, choose myproject1 -> Project -> Properties -> C/C++ Build -> Ok -> Project -> Build.
Revert what eclipse did

To revert what eclipse did to your project simply run

rm -rf .externalToolBuilders/ .project .cproject
Why Subversion does not work

When using eclipse's svn plugin and building a KDE program, you will get error messages complaining that your svn binary is too old. If you want to try and change this, here's how you get to that error:

  • Install the subversion plug-ins
Help -> Software Updates -> Available Software -> Add Site -> -> Add Site ->
Now add it: Subversive Site -> Subversive SVN Team Provider Plugin
Subversive SVN Connectors Site -> Subversive SVN Connectors -> SVNKit 1.3.0 Implementation (Optional)
  • Click on Install
  • Restart eclipse
  • Import your KDE module
Choose File -> New -> Other -> SVN -> Project from SVN -> -> Check out as project configured using the New Project Wizard -> C++ Project -> Makefile Project -> Empty Project. As name, we choose kdepim5 -> Finish
  • Set cmake as build environment
Choose Project -> Properties -> C/C++ Build -> Builder Settings. Un-tag "use default build command", set "cmake" instead. Choose Project -> Properties -> C/C++ Build -> Behavior. Replace "all" by ".".

See also


This describes how to use QtCreator to develop KDE 4 applications. It has been tested with QtCreator 1.2.80 and SUSE Linux 11.1 but should work same or similar with every combination. As an example KDE application we use ktimetracker from the kdepim module, other applications should work same or similar.

Load an existing project

As discussed here we use ktimetracker as example project.

  • Import the CMakeLists.txt file

File -> Open -> kdepim/CMakeLists.txt.

  • Configure qtcreator to build only ktimetracker

Projects -> ktimetracker -> build settings -> Add a configuration ktimetracker.

As build directory choose kdepim. As arguments for cmake use e.g.


Start a KDE project

To start a new project you need to tell qtcreator to use the KDE libraries when building. So, choose File -> New... and create your project. We will call it yourproject here. To be able to use KDE's libraries, go to your home directory, cd into yourproject and modify Add a line

LIBS += -lkdeui

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