How to change the length of existing excerpts?

This is a great theme component. It seems to be the case that to adjust the length of the excerpts you adjust the “topic excerpt maxlength” setting in /admin/site_settings… It also looks like if you change the length of the excerpt, it doesn’t change the excerpt shown for pre-existing topics, and if you want the change in length to apply to pre-existing topics, you need to make some kind of edit to those topics.

Is that right? Any way to have a change of excerpt length shown on the topics list apply to all topics, including pre-existing ones?

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Yup - you just need to rebake the posts:

$ cd /var/discourse
$ ./launcher enter app
$ rake posts:rebake