KDE is a graphical desktop environment for Unix and Unix-like operating systems such as Linux. In addition to a basic desktop, KDE includes many popular types of software including a text editor, a web browser, an office suite, an email client, a PIM suite, and much more. KDE itself, and all the software distributed with KDE, have been licenced under the GPL free software licence since KDE version 2.0 in late 2000. The desktop environment will be able to run natively on other operating systems, such as Mac OS-X and Microsoft Windows, when version 4.0 will be released in 2007.
KDE comes prepackaged with almost every type of application software, most sporting an upper case "K" in the name. The KOffice suite provides most of the functionality of Open Office or Microsoft Office in an integrated package. The AmaroK audio player is regarded as one of the best audio players available for any computing platform, and the Kplayer video player can play any type of media format, including proprietary codecs should they be installed on the system. KDE includes the Kmail email client in its PIM suite, which sees rapid development and is compatible with most competing PIM suites in terms of synchronization and data importing. The Konqueror file manager sees double duty as a web browser, much like its Windows Explorer counterpart. Its KHTML rendering engine, shared with Kmail, is so highly regarded that Apple's Safari engineers incorporated it into their own product.
KDE was founded with the goal of providing a desktop environment for Unix-like systems that provides a consistent user interface across applications. To meet that goal, KDE uses the Qt toolkit from Trolltech. Although originally a proprietary platform, Qt was released under the GPL licence in September 2000, allowing KDE to also be released under that same licence one month later. Qt provides basic widgets to the desktop environment, including toolbars, scrollbars, and buttons. Additionally, the newest versions of the toolkit provide a common API for XML parsing, database integration, and file handlers. Thus, all programs and suites based upon Qt (and thus, all of KDE) share a common theme, and function in a very consistent manner.
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