Get Involved/development

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By joining the ranks of KDE developers, you will get to implement new features and defeat bugs both daunting and simple. Developers collaborate in teams based on what area they are working on. These can be small teams working on a single application, up to large teams working on a group of related pieces of software, or even meta-teams working on broader topics such as QA or automation. Many developers participate in more than one team.

KDE runs or participates in several mentoring programs to help new developers, including an informal list of people who are willing to help newcomers get started. See the Mentoring page for more details.

Where to find the development team

The KDE developers are here to assist you if you need any help following this guide.

There are several ways to get in touch with KDE developers, either generally or for a specific project. The most important communication channels are:

These are general KDE development communication channels, and you may be directed to a more appropriate place for the project you're interested in.

  • Many projects and teams have their own real-time chat channels, which can be found on the Matrix Rooms page.
  • There is a list of mailing lists if you want to find a mailing list for a specific team directly.

The Main Page of this wiki includes links to specific development teams and the Get Involved page includes links to more general contribution teams.

Prerequisites

Skills

Most KDE software is written in C++ using the Qt toolkit and KDE Frameworks. Though prior experience with these technologies or other programming languages is helpful, you don't need to be a C++ programmer to get started! For example, no programming knowledge whatsoever is required to do things like improving text labels.

If you'd like to dive deeper, the Qt wiki contains a list of online books for learning Qt programming. Qt also provides lots of examples you can look at. For visual learners, this YouTube playlist of QML tutorials by KDE patron KDAB may be useful. Finally, information about KDE Frameworks can be found on the KDE Developer Platform and KDE API website. We also provide a wiki page full of learning resources.

Operating system

For KDE development, we recommend a Linux operating system installed on your computer or in a virtual machine. The ones best suited for development provide relatively recent versions of libraries needed by KDE software, and use the "rolling release" model. Some examples are Arch Linux, openSUSE Tumbleweed, and KDE neon. The latest version of Fedora KDE usually works as well.

We recommend that you use the KDE Plasma desktop on your Linux operating system.

Support for Windows and macOS are still experimental, and you may have a better experience doing your development in a virtual machine using a Linux distribution. Setting up a development environment on other operating systems--including FreeBSD--is an advanced topic.

The main way to develop KDE software: kdesrc-build

KDE uses a custom tool called kdesrc-build for setting up a development environment and building KDE software. You only need to set up your environment once, and then you can compile (and recompile) KDE software as often as needed.

Setting up your environment on a Linux machine is fairly simple. You'll need to install a few programs to get started.


Once you have a development environment set up, you'll be able to compile single applications or entire software stacks with kdesrc-build. One particular use that kdesrc-build makes convenient is compiling a full Plasma session so you can into it.


Once you've made some changes to a piece of KDE software, you'll need to submit those changes to KDE for inclusion in the next release. We use a Gitlab instance hosted at invent.kde.org, which has a web interface to manage code submissions (called patches, or Merge Requests), and this can be done from the terminal as well.


Once you've got kdesrc-build set up, you might also want to configure an IDE of your choice for a more convenient workflow. This is optional.


Once you've finished learning how to use kdesrc-build, you might see yourself having certain needs, such as managing different branch groups or having separate builds of KDE software based on Qt5 in addition to your current Qt6 on . Those topics are covered in the advanced section. This section is optional.

Choose what to work on

A good place to start is with a small bug or feature in an existing piece of software that affects you personally ("scratch your own itch"). Get in touch with the existing developers (see Where to find the development team, below) and they can help you out, by pointing you to the right place in the code and giving advice about how to tackle the problem.

Try not to start by proposing or working on major features or significant design changes. These can be controversial, and the smoothest way to get going is by working on relatively non-controversial bugfixes. Start slowly and build trust!

Here are some other ideas for starting points:

  • Improve awkwardly-worded messages and labels that are written in English. This is a great way for non-programmers to contribute! If you can compile software and have a good grasp of English, you can make a big difference here.
  • Work on Junior Jobs, which are small tasks that are suitable for beginners (both bugs and features). You can find them available both on Bugzilla and Gitlab.
  • Work on Bugs related to KDE's Usability & Productivity initiative, many of which are small and easy.
  • More easy tasks.

Source code cross-referencing

To search for a class, method, signal name... etc in all KDE repos, KDE uses a code referencing tool to index code in the various KDE repositories, you can search using the web interface available at https://lxr.kde.org/ . This is a very useful tool if you e.g. want to search for code usage examples in existing code... etc.

Usage:

  • From the Branch group menu, you can select either kf5-qt5, to search the code in the Git master branches or stable-kf5-qt5 to search only the stable (released) branches
  • There are two search modes:
    • On the Identifier search page, you can search for (note that this is case sensitive):
      • class names, e.g. RenameDialog, StatJob, and of course any Qt class (used in KDE code, which is pretty much all of them), QLatin1String, QListWidget
      • method names, e.g. addConfigSources() (from the KConfig framework) and signal names e.g. mimeTypeFound()
    • on the General search page, you can search for strings, e.g. in Dolphin's context menu (accessed by right- clicking any empty space) there is Paste Clipboard Contents, if you want to find in which source file this string is defined, search for Paste Clipboard Contents; this search includes classes/methods/signals names.

Other ways to search across all of the KDE git repositories:

  • If you have a github.com account. Log into github.com. Go to https://github.com/KDE , at the top of the page in the search bar ("Type / to search"), write your search term e.g. KMessageBox, select "In this organization". In order to search case sensitive and whole words, you can use case sensitive regex e.g. org:KDE /(?-i)\bKMessageBox\b/.
  • kdesrc-build --src-only will download the source code of more than 300 KDE git repositories in ~/kde/src. Search inside this directory. E.g. using Microsoft Visual Studio Code, from a terminal run the command line code ~/kde/src, from the vscode main menu > Edit > Find in Files Ctrl+Shift+F.

Next steps

Sharpen your skills by going through the KDE development tutorials.

After you have had several drama-free patches accepted, a KDE developer is likely to suggest you get a Developer account, which will allow you to commit directly to KDE projects. With very few limits on where you can commit, you will be expected to act responsibly. At this point, congratulations! You are officially a KDE developer!

Best practices & other useful information

Advanced Topics

This page continues with more advanced topics.