Maya user interface

From TOI-Pedia


The layout of the menu bar is the same as the overall interface; frequently used commands are placed on the left. Because Maya has many menus for various tasks, the menu bar has been split into a fixed part (File, Edit, Create, Select, Modify, Display, Windows,[...] ,Cache, Help) and a part that can be set to a specific task using a Pull-down menu. This pull-down is located on the left side, directly beneath the File and Edit menus:

Maya Interface pulldown.png

When you change the pull-down menu from Modeling to Animation, the menus after 'Windows' are changed to the menus specific for animation:

Maya interface animation.png

And below when set back to Modeling:

Maya Interface modeling.png

Let's take a closer look at the 'Modeling' set menu bar. It starts with four items for polygonal mesh objects: Mesh, Edit Mesh, Mesh Tools, Mesh Display. Mesh contains commands for changing polygon objects. The next two menus are Edit Mesh and Mesh tools: functions to add/remove polygon objects and/or components to polygone meshes. Mesh Display contains helpful display functions for polygonal objects/components.

Menus Curves and Surfaces contain commands related to NURBS curves and surfaces.

It's impossible to know every command by heart. But when you see the logic of the way all commands are structured in the menus, it shouldn't take too long to find what you're looking for.


On the left side next to the viewport you find the toolbox. Here you can find the selection tool and the Transformation tools you can use to move, rotate or scale objects. The Show Manipulator Tool offers a more advanced manipulator that allows multiple transformations simultaneously and is geared towards custom operations on specific objects.

Below these tools you find the viewport tools; one perspective viewport, 1 perspective and 3 orthogonal viewports, and viewport with outliner. In the outliner you can find a list of objects in your scene.

Maya Interface toolbox.png

Status line

Below the Menu bar we find the Status Line. Various functions are located here: first the file buttons, then the selection options and masks, snap buttons, rendering buttons, the input box and finally the sidebar buttons.

Maya interface statusline.png


By default the workspace shows one single panel with a default view of your scene (with standard grid). This panel shows your scene as viewed from the standard perspective camera (persp). When you navigate through your scene the camera you look through is actually moved.

Interface 0.jpg

You can use the Quick Layout Buttons (below the Tool Box) to change to the Four View. This will replace the single panel with 4 panels: 3 orthogonal views ( front, side and top) and one perspective (persp).

Interface 3viewports.jpg

You can quickly switch from the Four View to a Single View by tapping your space bar while hovering your mouse over the panel you want to enlarge. When you tap space again, you will switch back.

You can change the camera that is shown in each of the views by using the pull-down menu Panels in the panel. Here you can switch between the different cameras. You can find the cameras in either the Perspecitive or Ortographics sub-menus, depending on the type of camera.

Maya Viewport panelsmenu.png


The Channelbox is on the right side of the screen. In this menu you will find all the properties of the selected object, and you can change those properties. If you apply a certain operation on an object, Maya will remember this. This is called the construction history of an object and that is also shown here.

Interface channelbox.jpg

If you create an object in Maya it will automatically get a unique name. When you are building a large building or model it can be useful to change the standard name of an object to something that makes a little more sense to humans. This can help you finding and selecting objects in larger scenes. You can change a name by clicking on the standard name in the channelbox. When you have already used a name, e.g: door and you name another object door, Maya will automatically suffix a number, making the name unique. So your new door will be named door1 and so on.

Interface channelbox2.jpg

In the Outliner you can select objects by name, so giving them a logical name can be very useful.


The outliner gives a list of all the objects in your scene. To show the outliner go to: Window » Outliner


By default everything is shown, but you can also just show for instance just geometry:



To navigate in 2D and 3D space you have to use Alt in combination with the mouse buttons.

Alt + left mouse button: rotate (tumble)
Alt + middle mouse button: pan (track)
Alt + right mouse button: move closer or farther (dolly)

Using Alt + Ctrl + left mouse button will allow you to draw a box to move closer or farther (dolly). In most cases you can also use the scroll wheel on your mouse to dolly in or out, although it may be less smooth and precise.

When you are moving around keep an eye on your coordinate system: the y-axis should point up.

Interface navigate.jpg

Selecting, deleting and useful shortcuts

To select objects in Maya click on them. To select more than one object, click to select the first, and while pressing shift click the second object. To deselect all selected objects click somewhere empty in the viewport, to deselect one selected object, press control and click on the object you want to deselect. You can also select objects by dragging a frame around (part of) the objects.

To delete an object, select it and then press the delete button on your keyboard.

Useful shortcuts are ctrl + Z (undo), shift + Z (redo) ctrl + A (attribute editor), W (move tool), E (rotate tool), R (scale tool).

Display options

Maya has different options for displaying the objects. When you start Maya will show objects as green lines (when selected) and blue lines, when not selected, the so called wireframe mode. You can also get to this mode pressing 4 on your keyboard. If you want to see shaded objects you press 5. (See below)

Interface displayoptions.jpg

Other display options you can get by pressing 6 and 7. 6 will show you textures and 7 will show the light setup and possible shadows.

If you press 8 the Paint Effects panel will become active. By pressing 8 again you will go back to the normal view. You can go back to a 'normal' tool by selecting the Select, Move or any other tool from the Tool Box.
If you press 2 or 3 when one or more polygon objects are selected, Maya will change the display for these objects to smooth display. Press 1 to go back to the default display.

In the shading menu in your viewport there are also other ways of displaying the objects in that viewport, for instance, the wire frame on shaded can be useful:


With the X-ray shading mode objects will be shown transparent.


The interactive shading can be very useful too, especially when you are handling a very large and slow model. This shading mode shows the objects in shaded (or wireframe on shaded)mode when not navigating, but shows the objects in wireframe mode when using the navigating tools. The backface culling can also be convenient. When using it, Maya only shows the faces that have the normals facing in the direction of the camera you're looking through. In this way it's easy to detect which faces might have the normals in the wrong direction.

Also very useful options can be found in the show menu in your viewport:


It is possible to show only the object you have selected, to do this, select the objects you want to be shown, then go to Show » Isolate Select » View Selected. To show all objects again go to Isolate Select again to check it off.

You can also let Maya only show objects of certain types, for instance, when you are modeling you don't need to show all the camera's and lights, so in the show menu in the viewport you can check the things you need and turn off the things you don't need to see.

Attribute editor

The attribute editor shows the attributes of the selected object. You can show the attribute editor by going to Window » Attribute Editor or typing ctrl + A:


Every type of object's attribute editor of course looks different, but generally, the tabs are the nodes of the selected object, the attributes of all these different nodes are on these tabs. In the attribute editor all information on the selected object can be seen (and edited).


Materials that determine the look of objects in you model are called shaders in Maya. Shaders are managed and created in the Hypershade.

The Maya Hypershade

You can access the Hypershade through: Window » Rendering Editors » Hypershade

The Hypershade has the following components:

Menu- and Toolbar
Menu's and buttons for frequently used functions
Overview of all the shaders that are present in your scene. Note that there are tabs for other types of shaders, besides materials, as well.
Create Bar
Overview of all types of shaders that are available. When you click an item, a shader of that type is created. It will show up in the Work Area, but also in your library
Work Area
Shaders may be linked to create advanced shader networks. This is done here.

You can navigate in the Library and Work Area using the same navigation as in the Maya viewport: Alt + MMB to pan, Alt + RMB to zoom.

Script editor

Maya is a very broad software application with numerous possibilities and applications. Nevertheless it's flexibility is one of the key features: there are several options to tailor the program to your own needs and demands and to add new functionality yourself. One of the key components to do that is the Maya scripting language, MEL. MEL stands for Maya Embedded Language. In fact the entire interface of Maya as you know it is written in MEL. Everything you do and see in the interface corresponds with one or more MEL commands.

Below the ChannelBox you see a white line and a gray line. On the right to the gray line there is one button, here you find the script editor (also; you can open the Script Editor through Windows » General Editors » Script Editor. This interface is used to enter commands and scripts, but the history panel also provides feedback. On the left the chosen script language can be changed. If you want to execute a MEL script, make sure it says MEL on the left.

Maya Interface scripteditor.png

If the Script Editor is opened, you'll see a window similar to the image below. The window is divided in two parts: The top part is the history, the bottom part is where you can type. Here you can also choose between scripting in MEL or in Python. The history probably already contains some output. You'll notice that most actions in Maya result in output in the history panel. It shows the commands that are being executed and the results of those commands. In this image you can see part of the commands used to make the objects.

Interface scripteditor002.jpg


All my toolbars, shelves and toolboxes have disappeared

Maya in Full-screen mode

You are probably in full-screen mode.

Press Ctrl + space to toggle between normal mode and full-screen mode.

When i try to select a vertex, surrounding vertices are also selected

Maya interface SoftSelect.JPG

Soft Select is probably enabled accidentally. Double-click either your Selection tool or your Move/Rotate/Scale tool and disable Soft Select from the tool options.

Alternatively press the keyboard shortcut b for Soft Select to switch it on or off..

I don't see the ViewCube anymore

Maya ViewCube.jpg

The viewcube sometimes gets disabled. You can re-enable it through:

Window » Settings/Preferences » Preferences

Go to the section Interface, subsection ViewCube and check Show the ViewCube.

I don't see my Layers and or Channelbox (Until Maya 2010)

Make sure the Channebox/Layer Editor panel is active. Click:

Maya ChannelboxLayerEditor Button.jpg (these 3 buttons are located in the top right of the screen) to toggle the Channelbox/Layer Editor on or of.

The three buttons at the top of the panel:

Maya Layers and or Channels.jpg

control whether the Channelbox is shown, or the Layer Editor or both. The left button shows only the Channelbox, the middle the Layers and the right button shows both.

My main menu-bar (File, Edit, Modify, etc) has disappeared

Main menubar is missing

Press and hold space somewhere in one of your viewports. The Hotbox will appear. Left click and hold on the Hotbox Controls box. A pulldown unfolds. Select Window Options at the bottom. Make sure Show Main menubaris checked.

My viewport menu-bar (View, Shading, .... Panels) has disappeared

Viewports (pane) menubars are missing

Press and hold space somewhere in one of your viewports. The Hotbox will appear. Left click and hold on the Hotbox Controls box. A pulldown unfolds. Select Window Options at the bottom. Make sure Show Pane menubarsis checked.

My shelves, toolbox or other element has disappeared

Toolbox and Shelves are missing from the interface

Easiest is to restore the entire interface: Display » UI Elements » Restore UI Elements. But you can also enable/disable each element manually in the UI Elements menu.

My shelf doesn't shows the shelf tabs

Maya noShelfTabs.jpg

Left-click the downard arrow and hold. Select Shelf tabs. The Shelf tabs should now appear.

Maya Shelf options arrow.jpg

The move tool manipulators are rotated

Manipulators are rotated

Is your move tool manupilators not aligned to the default XYZ directions or rotated like the image to the right?

Double-click on the move tool and select World to set the manupilators back to the XYZ world space.

My move manipulators are gone.

Manipulators are gone

Are the manipulators gone when you select the move tool or when you go into component mode?

Double-click on the move tool and uncheck the Tweak mode.

My move tool moves in increments.

Disable Snap to grid option

Does your move tool only move by a specific unit or it looks like it snaps to a grid and doesn’t allow you to move smoothly?

If your object appears to be snapping to the grid, then you can turn off Snap to grid.

Disable Discrete move option

If your object moves in a specific unit of increments, then disable the Discrete move.

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