So far I know two ways of changing the column count.
Option 1. Hard Coding it:
<?php $_columnCount = $this->getColumnCount(); ?>
<?php $_columnCount = 4 ?> //or whatever number you desire
Option 2. Under Manage Categories in the Backend under the Custom Design Tab:
<reference name="product_list"> <action method="setColumnCount"><count>4</count></action> </reference>
Are both methods equally good? What is the benefit to not hard coding the column count in? I imagine one benefit would be that different categories could get different column counts.
Is there a better way? Is there anything I am missing? They both seem pretty hard coded to me.