I never understood Replicants initially. It took me a while reading through threads/posts by Bill and the like over here, to start understanding it – but it was my syncing to DTTG that really brought things home.
The ‘original’ files stay where they are in their group/folder structure, unannotated. Replicate to the DTTG sync folder. Get them over onto the iPad. Annotate them in Goodreader (or whatever), sync them back to DTPO. Because they are Replicants, all instances of those files are treated equally. So while the Replicated files are being annotated on the iPad, the ‘original’ files are sitting there, clean. As soon as the sync back from DTTG happens, and the annotated files land back in DTGO, the annotations are instantly (and automagically) transferred to those ‘originals’. They too are now annotated. In my case, I then simply delete the files in the sync folder, and the ‘originals’ again become the only instance of that file – but they are now annotated!
The beauty of the above is that I never needed to move any files, or interfere with my folder/group structure. No moving/duplicating and forgetting where what is where, when.
A second example – I might want to use files (articles; book chapters; caselaw etc) in a particular lecture. Again, they might not yet have been processed by me. If the lecture is going to see me “using” them in the same research context as my main research, I can Replicate them into a temporary (or permanent) Lecture-specific folder, where I store all the resources I will be using for that lecture series. I Replicate them, since any annotations I make, will still be aligned with the main research project, so I am happy to have the annotations transfer over to the original file.
If the lecture series was to use similar sources, but the emphasis of the series was slightly different to my central research, I would Duplicate those files instead, and the annotations would (obviously) NOT transfer over to the originals.
A third and final example, related closely to questions surrounding Tagging and Single/Multiple Databases – Article X might be a comparative analysis spanning several jurisdictions. I could either Duplicate that article into different groups/databases – and only annotate that section of the article that speaks to the jurisdiction of the enclosing group/folder I have placed it in. Each instance of that article would then remain separate and independent of the others, and would only have certain parts of it annotated (depending on which jurisdictional group that instance was in). Or I could Replicate it, and “see” what I annotated in all the various parts, and various jurisdictions, as I work my way through the different instances of that article, in its various groups. This obviously differs from article to article - if the comparative discussion is a “standalone” section - then Duplicating it works a charm, since I would only be interested in seeing annotations in that specific section. But if it’s constantly jumping in and out, interweaving the comparative jurisdictions, then it is more useful to “see” what I had annotated on a previous occasion, when working through the article as a Replicant, in a different group. I don’t think Replicants work across different Databases - it simply becomes a Duplicate then AFAIK, so the latter example really depends on how one’s DBs are setup - but this hopefully explains things somewhat.
Regardless, must agree with what was said above. The ability to Replicate, as “simple” as it is, is (imo) what makes DTPO so powerful and versatile – and is certainly one of the key distinguishers from other, seemingly similar information managers. I think Devonthink needs to make far more of it as a feature, than what it currently is. Along with the wikilinks!!