KDE is a comprehensive desktop environment that builds on an X Window System and Qt to provide a window manager and many user tools, including a browser, word processor, spreadsheet, presentation package, games, and numerous other utilities. It provides extensive capabilities for customization.
The KDE instructions are divided into three parts. The first part, the core packages, are needed for the rest of KDE to work. The second part presents additional packages which provide functionality in various areas (multimedia, graphics, etc.) The third part provides resources for software and web developers.
There are two alternatives for installing KDE. Option one, that is used by most of the commercial distributions, is to install KDE in the standard system prefix: /usr. This option allows the use of KDE without the need for any additional configuration such as modification of various environment variables or configuration files. Option two is to install it in a unique prefix such as /opt/kde or /opt/kde-3.5.6. This option allows for easy removal of the KDE version or maintenance of multiple versions for testing.
All the KDE packages are comprised of various components. The default is to install most of the components. If specific components are to be eliminated, the official way is to set the variable DO_NOT_COMPILE. This comes in handy when there are problems compiling a particular component.
DO_NOT_COMPILE="component1 component2" \ ./configure --prefix=$KDE_PREFIX ...
The core KDE packages also honor this variable, but omitting components from the core packages is not advisable since it may result in an incomplete KDE installation.
In each of the packages, one other option to configure can be added: --enable-final. This option can speed up the build process, but requires a lot of memory. If you have less than 256MB of RAM, this option may cause swapping and significantly slow compilation.