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Help a Vanilla noob out

I just got Vanilla, so I'm still working out the kinks in understanding how everything works.

1) I want to re-haul the entire default theme. I've already read the documents on themes and from what I understand, the files in "applications/dashboard/" directory control the theme for everything, and the files under a specific theme in "themes/(theme_name)" are just the shell and css that will overwrite these dashboard files, correct?

2) So, will that mean editing html in the "dashboard/views/" folder affect all themes, unless a specific theme has some sort of "overwrite" file of its own specific to the original in dashboard/views/"? (i.e. The profile page will always take on the html of the "dashboard/views/" folder, on every theme unless it has a copy in the theme's old folder to tell it what to do differently?) It appears that only the shell of a page is created by default to overwrite, along with a few css changes.

3) I plan on using one universal theme for all users on my website. What is the suggested way to structure my tweaks to the original theme? Should I just dive right into the "dashboard/views" folder and edit everything right from the source, or should I make a copy of everything and apply it as a new theme?

4) I checked out one of the downloadable themes (BrandFriendly, as mentioned in the theming documentation) and I noticed the master shell file had everything in straight html, rather than being mixed in with php. I would prefer messing with this much more than editing the ones with all the php. Is there an original set of files that are all html with the variables that comes with Vanilla right off the bat, that I haven't found yet?

Thanks to anyone who can offer some help.
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