For over a decade, KDE has supplied Linux and Unix users with a graphical desktop environment and a suite of useful applications. It has become one of the most popular desktop environments and is the default on many Linux distributions. With the coming of KDE 4, developers promised native KDE applications running on Windows. While the current release is still not ready for production, as of KDE 4.3.3, it is coming closer and worth trying. What follows is a brief guide to getting KDE running on Windows.
The Windows download for KDE is not very obvious on the main KDE download page. It is not clear if this is deliberate, since it is still unstable, but the Windows installer for KDE is actually available on the KDE website. Download the .exe file and save it. Double-click it to run the installer, just as you would for any other Windows program.
At this point you have only downloaded the small installation file and not the actual KDE packages. Therefore, select the first option in the installation window “Install from Internet”. The next screen will present you with several options about how to install KDE. Unless you are a developer or have some specific reason to choose the other options, just choose “End User”. This will install the binary packages for KDE, whereas the other options all require you to compile KDE from source.
On the next screen, you can choose which KDE programs to install. As you will see, there are quite a few KDE applications now available, although some are still missing. Select as many or as few as you like. Even if you realize that you want to install more software, the installer will let you install just those later on, without having to reinstall the previous ones.
Click next and follow the rest of the instructions just as you would with a normal installer. When it is complete, it will ask you if you want to run System Settings. Check the box and proceed.
Configure and Use
The System Settings program is currently functional, although many settings are not yet available to Windows users. Click on the “Advanced” tab and then click the “Platform” button. This is a unique non-Unix feature that allows you to select the level of Windows integration. Currently, Plasma is not available but apparently will be in the future.
Next, click on the “General” tab and click “Appearance“. Click the “Style” button and choose the widget style you prefer. KDE can integrate with the default Windows style or use the default KDE style: Oxygen.
Finally, run KDE applications just like you run regular Windows ones: directly from the Start Menu. KDE games work particularly well, as does the KDE text editor, Kate, which we covered two weeks ago. Always keep in mind that this software is not yet complete, but what they do have available works pretty well. For information and customization options, be sure to read the KDE TechBase documentation on Windows. KDE is free and open source software, which you can freely download, install, and redistribute.