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Building Plasma against Qt6

As you probably have heard by now the lastest development versions of Plasma and KDE Frameworks require Qt6. This transition has been in the works for a few years by now, but it was only somewhat recently that we took the plunge and started relying on Qt6 exclusively for Plasma. Plasma 5.27 is the last Plasma 5 release and continues in bugfix-only mode.

For people who want to hack on Plasma features this raises the obvious question: How do I build Plasma 6 to hack on it?

Before diving into this, a word of warning: Current Plasma master is in no way “ready for production”. There are known-broken things and things may temporarily regress at any time. That said, the only way to get towards a stable thing is to dig in and fix things. So let’s see how to do that.

For this explanation I’m assuming you have build KDE software with kdesrc-build before. If not we have some extensive documentation for that. First you need at least Qt 6.4 installed. The usually best way to get that is from your distribution. If your distribution does not have Qt6 packaged yet please complain^Wtalk to them. CMake should complain about any missing Qt6 modules/development files, but make sure you have the qtpaths tool installed beforehand. It should be named something like qtpaths6 or qtpaths-qt6.

Now we need to teach kdesrc-build to build Plasma with the right configuration (git branches, CMake arguments etc) for building with Qt6. The easiest way to do that is by using a separate kdesrc-buildrc file. kdesrc-build comes with a sample Qt6 configuration file that you should use as a starting point. Replace the line include ~/kde6/usr/share/kdesrc-build/kf6-qt6-build-include with a path to your existing kdesrc-build installation. For me that would be include ~/kde/src/kdesrc-build/kf6-qt6-build-include. You can also apply other customizations that you usually do in your kdesrc-buildrc. Then save the file as e.g. ~/kde6/kdesrc-buildrc. This configuration will download, build, and install everything under ~/kde6. Currently it is very important to keep Qt5-based and Qt6-based builds separate since there will be conflicts between the installed files.

Now you can invoke kdesrc-build as usual, with one slight difference. Passing --rc-file=/home/user/kde6/kdesrc-buildrc will make it use the Qt6 configuration. If you omit the --rc-file argument it will use the old, Qt5-based configuration, so you can keep building Qt5- and Qt6-based stuff in parallel (but installed into different locations). Since kdesrc-build --rc-file=/home/user/kde6/kdesrc-buildrc is a bit of a mouthful you might want to configure a shell alias like kdesrc-build6 for it.

Now you can do kdesrc-build --rc-file=/home/user/kde6/kdesrc-buildrc workspace to build Plasma. Note that it’s expected that not all modules successfully build since not all of them are adjusted to Qt6 fully yet.

Once Plasma is build you want to log into the new session. To do that go to ~/kde6/build/plasma-workspace and run sudo ./login-sessions/ once. Then you can select the new session at login in SDDM.

Now for some question that might be on your mind:

Q: Is it stable?

A: No, see above.

Q: When will it be stable?

A: Time will tell. It will be several more months before we can consider a Plasma 6 release.

Q: I tested it and found a problem, what should I do?

A: Report it to, and state that you are using Plasma master. Or try fixing it yourself.

Q: I want to work on a Plasma feature, what should I do?

A: Try developing it against Plasma master. If you find yourself blocked by anything please tell us.

Q: Does this apply to other KDE software as well?

A: Yes. Note that most applications allow building against Qt5 and Qt6 from the same branch though. And some apps aren’t ported to Qt6 at all.

Q: I did not understand a word of what you just said but I’d still like to help.

A: One way to help is by donating to KDE. Your donations help me have time to do things like working on Qt6 support or writing this blog post

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