Frontpage Manager allows you to customize how the posts appear on your frontpage in several different ways.
- you can have the posts drawn from all categories or a subset of your choosing
- you can choose how many posts should display (this is distinct from WordPress’ built-in Reading Settings which applies to all blog pages)
- you can have each post limited in length by number of characters, words, or paragraphs
- you can choose which HTML tags should be stripped from posts
- you can specify a read more link, etc. if you like
- you can hide the category in the page title, if you wish
The plugin will attempt to make sure that any tags that are interrupted by the post-limiting feature are matched so as not to cause formatting issues.
I have tested this plugin from WordPress 2.8.