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I am using flat catalogs.

I see that by default description product attribute is not in catalog_product_flat_* tables.

Although short_description is.

Why?

If I set description to 'Used in Product Listing' i.e. deliberately put it in flat tables would it affect my site performance or its functioning in any way?

I don't think so but I just want a confirmation from experts.

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If I set description to 'Used in Product Listing' i.e. deliberately put it in flat tables would it affect my site performance or its functioning in any way?

To answer your question directly on top of what Murtuza said: yes it will. Simple reason: Magento will have to retrieve more information from the database thus the performance will be affected.

The real question for you is: how bad does it affect the performance and can you afford it ? That I don't know and you will have to make some performance tests to find out by yourself for example: check the page speed with cache enabled with both 'Used in product listing' set to Yes and No.

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by default in magento description is not in listing page.

and flat table is mostly use for list page only

for many website description has large data

so that's why its not advisable to add that data in flat table + its very hard to show large data for every product in list page where you don't have that much space and if you want to do so , then you have to do some design changes

and also in magento default theme, short description shows in list view

that's why short description is there in flat table

And also site speed depends how much data you have in description

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