Step 4: Tools of the Trade
Once you're happy navigating in Maya, we will need some tools to play with. The basic tools that you will be using are the selection tools and the transformation tools.
In the top half of the Toolbox, you have the general Select tool (keyboard shortcut: Q) and working downwards, you have the Lasso tool and the Paint Selection tool. Below them, you have the Move, Rotate and Scale tools (keyboard shortcuts: W, E, and R respectively).
Further down, you have the Universal Manipulator, which I find pretty horrible to use (if using Maya 2014, you will find this under Modify > Transformation Tools). You can also double-click any of the tools to bring up the settings for that tool, which is very useful for many reasons, such as switching between working in World or Local mode.
A useful shortcut to these tool settings is to hold down the keyboard shortcut button and the LMB to bring up a small marking menu to edit the settings. For example, holding down W +LMB will allow you to edit the Move tool settings.
Using the selection and transformation tools, and accessing the marking menus to make changes to the settings
Step 5: Attribute Editor Channel Box and the Outliner
You will be spending a lot of time in these three windows so this is a quick breakdown of where to find them and what they do.
To access the Attribute Editor or the Channel Box, you can hit Ctrl + A. This will switch between the two menus unless you customize your scene and have both in view. The Channel Box will allow you edit parameters for a selected object, such as its position, orientation and scale. If you add any custom parameters to an object, they will also pop up here.
The Attribute Editor is similar, but reveals a lot more parameters as well as the object's material properties. The Outliner can be found in the Window Configuration tool set (third icon down) or in the Menu bar under Window > Outliner.
The Outliner reveals what is in your Maya scene file. It's one of many places that allow you to organize your scene as well as perform parenting, renaming and selection tasks. It's very important to keep your scenes clean and this is one of the quickest places to do so.
Attribute Editor, Channel Box and the Outliner
Top Tip: Use the Hotkeys!
You can use the otherwise pretty horrible Viewcube to navigate within Maya and here I find that it has one redeeming feature: if you are lost within your scene, you can click on the little house icon in the top left corner to go to the default position. Other than this, I urge you to not rely on the Viewcube to navigate around the scene. Learn to use the Alt key and also all the other shortcuts such as Q, W, E, and R, as they will make you more productive and efficient.