KDE is a community dedicated to the development of free software. One of the best-known projects is the KDE Plasma 5 desktop environment and the previous K Desktop Environment project.
In addition to the community of programmers, artists and other developers, there is a second pillar in the form of the registered association KDE e. V., based in Berlin, which, as a legal entity, takes care of financial and legal aspects of the project.
The project was launched on October 14, 1996 by Matthias Ettrich under the name Kool Desktop Environment. The programmers initially oriented themselves towards the proprietary Unix desktop CDE, which was already available at the time, both in terms of functionality and name. Right from the start, however, they relied on an object-oriented programming language (C ++) and an extensive, already existing user interface library called Qt, which had been developed by Trolltech. In the course of development, the name Kool was abandoned, the K thus remained without any further meaning in the name.
On July 12, 1998 the final version 1.0 of the K Desktop Environment was published. This early version was received with mixed feelings by the Unix community: many criticized the use of the nonfree Qt user interface library. Due to the pressure exerted on Trolltech and the persuasion work of the KDE developers, Trolltech decided in April 1999 to make Qt available in a special, freer version that largely met the needs of the community. The final breakthrough came with version 2.0 from October 23, 2000.
Version 3.0 of April 3, 2002 was primarily a port to the new main version of the underlying framework Qt 3.0. KDE released the last version, 3.5.10, on August 26, 2008.
On August 18, 2006, the KDE team released the first pre-release version of the new KDE software compilation 4 with the name Krash under version number 3.80.1. The final version 4.0 was published on January 11, 2008. On November 6, 2009, the project founder Matthias Ettrich was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit for KDE. 2009 the formulation K Desktop Environment was also dropped. From now on, KDE only refers to the development community and the program package is called Software Compilation (KDE SC). The new brand strategy has been in effect since November 24, 2009. The first version released after the change of strategy was formally 4.3.4, but only version 4.4 Beta 1 bears this name in the software.
The community is represented externally by the non-profit association KDE e. V., which also holds the rights to the KDE brand and was founded in 1997. The association, based in Berlin, represents the members in all financial and legal matters and helps organize the conferences and meetings of the project members. The KDE e. V. has a five-person board, whose members are elected by a general assembly for a maximum of three years. It currently consists of Aleix Pol i Gonzàlez (President), Lydia Pintscher (Vice President), Eike Hein (Vice President and Treasurer), Neofytos Kolokotronis and Adriaan de Groot. In some countries, KDE also has its own organizations. These are either freely organized (KDE India) or, like KDE e. V., given a legal form (KDE España). Others cooperate with existing legal entities.
The Marketing Working Group founded in November 2005 has set itself the goal of helping to better coordinate existing public relations projects and to supplement others. It currently consists of Carl Symons, Inge Walling and Jos Poortvliet.
In February 2006 the first