Interface Overview

Interface Overview

Maya 2012 Tutorial


How to Better Understand the Maya Interface



Maya's Interface can be a bit overwhelming at first sight. There are six menu sets across the top of the screen. The menu sets are activated by the menu set pull-down menu in the upper left corner. With most menu items there are additional options. To access a menu item's options, select the box to the right of the menu item name (i.e., Create > Polygon Primitives > Sphere) and an options panel opens.

By default four view windows should appear in the center of the screen. They include Top, Side, Front and a default Perspective view. For more information, see topic, View Panels.

In the upper right corner of the screen are the Attribute Editor, Tool Settings and Channel Box icons. By clicking the Attribute Editor or Channel Box icon, that panel displays. For more information, see topics, Attribute Editor or Channel Box.

The timeline and it's controls reside at the bottom of the screen.


Step One

Maya includes six menu sets. They include Animation, Polygons, Surfaces, Dynamics, Rendering and nDynamics.

 Step Two

By default the workspace opens with four view panels. They are Top, Front, Side and Perspective. If your workspace opens with only one panel, open the Preferences panel, Interface - UI Elements category and set the Starting New Scenes setting to Four View.

 Step Three

The Top, Front and Side views are orthographic and the fourth window is a perspective window.

 Step Four

Within each panel, you will find another set of pull down menus that affect the current window.

 Step Five

Click the Attribute Editor icon to view an object's attributes.

 Step Six

The Channel Box provides quick access to an object's move, scale and rotate settings. It also displays your objects nodes and Construction History. For more information, see topic, Object Construction History.

 Step Seven

Once you select a tool, click the Tool Settings icon to open the Tool Settings panel.

 Step Eight

The Timeline and it's controls reside at the bottom of the screen. For more information, see topic, Timeline Basics.

 Step Nine

Across the top are a series of Shelves with tabs to quickly access common tasks.

 Step Ten

Also across the top are the Object/Component, Snap to and Render icons. For more information, see topic, Object vs Component Mode.

 Step Eleven

The Select, Move, Rotate and Scale tool icons are on the left side of the screen.

Essential Shortcuts

To access the Select, Move, Rotate and Scale tools, try these shortcuts.

q = Select tool

w = Move tool

e = Rotate tool

r = Scale tool


To move the camera view in any of the windows, press and hold the Option key (PC - Alt) then:

LMB (Left Mouse Button) drag to tumble camera (only works in Perspective windows)

MMB (Middle Mouse Button) drag to track camera

RMB (Right Mouse Button) drag to dolly camera

To make this work you must have a three button mouse and have it activated in your computer's control panel.


To frame a selected object in a window, press the f key.


To frame a selected object in all windows, press shift/f.


To frame all objects in a panel, deselect all objects and press the a key.


To frame all objects in all windows press Shift/a.


Another way to frame all objects in the scene or just the selected objects is to choose View > Frame All or Frame Selection from the view panel menu.


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