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For many years, the intuitions underlying partial-order planning were largely taken for granted. Only in the past few years has there been renewed interest in the fundamental principles underlying this paradigm. In this paper, we present a rigorous comparative analysis of partial-order and total-order planning by focusing on two specific planners that can be directly compared. We show that there are some subtle assumptions that underly the wide-spread intuitions regarding the supposed efficiency of partial-order planning. For instance, the superiority ofpartial-order planning can depend critically upon the search strategy and the structure of the search space. Understanding the underlying assumptions is crucial for constructing efficient planners.