I prefer the older more compact HOWTO index representation. It was much easier to scan HOWTO titles to quickly find needed information.
If you want to add more descriptive information and whitespace to the HOWTO links, then you should start breaking the HOWTO's into categories to make the pages shorter. The current HOWTO list is too long and monotonous to quickly find needed HOWTOs. It's very easy to lose your place and your train of thought when scrolling through a page that large.
Just my 2 cents from a web usability newbie . . .