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The default parindent in KOMA scrartcl is too small for me. I remember reading somewhere that just changing \parindent directly is not wise, since it also affects other things (like itemize etc). And I think I read that using something like the parskip package is better. Now, the parskip package documentation says that the KOMA script classes provide similar functionality. But I can't see where in the KOMA guide it discusses changing the indentation.

Does KOMA script offer a better way of doing this, or should I just modify parindent directly?

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Changing \parskip (the vertical space between two paragraphs) is not wise (that's why the package is called parskip and why KOMA has a lot of parskip options). Changing \parindent (the horizontal space at the start of a paragraph) is not a problem. – Ulrike Fischer Mar 21 '11 at 14:15
@Ulrike D'oh. Should have thought more carefully before asking this. It did seem strange that KOMA has 8 options for parskip, but just the one for parindent! Could you put this as an answer? And perhaps explain why it is that playing with parskip is a bad idea? – Seamus Mar 21 '11 at 15:03
up vote 14 down vote accepted

The main reason why "playing with \parskip is a bad idea" is that this length also affects list environments. Quoting from Mittelbach (1989), With LateX into the Nineties, section 3.1 "Implementation desasters":

The generic list environment is one of the central modules of the LaTeX implementation. It is used internally by most standard environments provided by LaTeX; even environments such as center are handled as a special kind of list [...]

  • An actual conceptual bug was the decision to add the value of \parskip to all vertical spacing parameters, even when it is used in places where no paragraph ends. This means that changing this parameter influences the layout in unexpected places, which in turn means that other parameters must be adjusted unnecessarily to compensate for this undesired side effect.

The last sentence describes what the parskip package, the options of the same name of the KOMA-script classes and the \abnormalparskip macro of the memoir class do: Besides setting \parskip to a positive value (and, with the exception of memoir, setting \parindent to zero), they adjust the spacing before and after lists.

Why does KOMA-scripthave so many options for parskip? You may choose between a vertical space equal to \baselineskip (full) or 0.5\baselineskip (half). You may also choose the minimum amount of whitespace to be left at the end of the last line of a paragraph (up to 0.33\linewidth); such whitespace increases the perceptibility of the start of a new paragraph.

Regarding \parindent: As Ulrike has explained, changing this length is not a problem.

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Presumably LaTeX3 will fix this "conceptual bug"? – Seamus Mar 31 '11 at 9:36

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