I still need to check the links you gave me sick-boy. I'm starting to see where many effects are slight variations on a theme. I'm pretty analytically minded, and if I saw the pathway of hook-ups, it may help some. I'm a science major, and used to dealing with pathways. I do see where a stomp box would be more conducive than my Digitech on-stage. Who wants to scroll for effect #99, when you have time constraint? I'll eventually get this all worked out. Just need some hard-core textbook definitions for some of this crap.
Thinking about pathways can help you analyze the sounds and effects.
The easiest way to characterize effects is to think of the following sets:
#1 distortion, compression, tone (EQ) - these deal with dynamics:
Gain, attack, sustain, limiting , clipping. These are usually generated by pickups, preamps, poweramps and speakers, or further up the chain in microphones, and tape.
#2 pitch based effects: Whammy, harmonizer, detune.
Simulating a whammy bar, a guitar slightly out of tune, or perfect harmonization.
#3 time based effects: delay, reverberation
a canyon usually has a single delayed (and lower volume) signal, perhaps with several repeats (echoes) reverberation is a large number of layered echoes.
These effects are used to simulate environments: hall, bathroom, canyon, etc.
#4 modulation effects, based upon the above three: either tone, pitch or time - wah, chorus, flanging.
Sweeping the EQ parameters in real time gives you wah-wah, modulating pitch by a few cents gives chorus, modulating phase gives phaser and flanger.
#5 combination effects: for example, delay + pitch gives "arpeggiator"
chorus+flanger simulates a rotating speaker ("Leslie")
The first three groups generally show up in that order, within a group you can switch around a bit.
For example putting chorus after distortion simulates two distored guitars running near parallel, while chorus before distortion would simulate two guitars sharing an amp (a bit strange but possible) put reverb before distortion and you end up with a mess.
A multi-effects unit usually won't (easily) allow you to change the order of effects. Each of these effects will have many parameters, from two knobs for simple overdrive to 25 parameters for the most complex of reverbs, with a stompbox you will have direct access to change sounds, with multi effects units it's more involving to modify and control parameters.
Just a side note, most effects were either the result of imperfect technology (IE tubes, leading to compression and distortion) experimentation with electronics (IE phasers) or invented to simulate specific sounds (IE reverb to simulate rooms, wah to emulate trumpets) but most have become entities by themselves. Since they were born out of experimentaion and lucky accidents they will require some experimentation on your side to get the sounds you want.
If you are looking for a particular sound, you need to do a bit of research, for many well know songs and players there are guides available to get their sound. Often patches on multi effects units are named (somewhat) after players and tunes, those can be a good starting point.