Get to know the basic main tools so you can work flexibly and efficiently in Maya.
Hopefully you are now pretty comfortable navigating in Maya. At this stage, we are going to look at some of the general tools we can use and how we can use them efficiently by using the keyboard hotkeys. Again, it's important to note that there are many different ways of doing the same thing in Maya, so I urge you to experiment to find a style of working that suits you.
Step 1: World v Object Translation
Firstly go Create > Polygon Primitive > Cube so we have an object to manipulate. Now hit W on the keyboard to activate the Translate tool.
By default, the Translate tool move axis is set to World mode. This means that when using the manipulator, the Y axis will always be up and down, X will be left and right, and the Z axis will be back and forth.
If you rotate the cube (shortcut key for Rotate is E) and then go back to the Translate tool, the manipulator handle will still be set to World space and the axis will be aligned as we left it.
Now double click the Translate tool icon to bring up its tool settings. Change the move axis to Object and you will see that the axis has orientated with the rotation that we added. We can now push and pull locally, as opposed to in World space. Very useful.
Manipulating a cube in Local and World space
Step 2: Gimbal Orientation and Rotation Order
You can also do the same for orientation. Changing from World to Local can give you a better representation of what the axes are doing. But, if you want the true representation of what the axes are doing, you should set your rotate mode to Gimbal.
Try rotating the Y axis by about 80 degrees. As you do, you will notice the X axis and the Z axis are now sitting one on top of the other. Rotating in X and Z will now give you a similar motion, which is not good for animation. This is caused by the Rotation order; this dictates the order in which these orientations will happen.
With your cube selected, hit Ctrl + A to bring up the Attribute Editor. Scroll to the left-most tab (pCube1) and you will see a parameter called Rotate Order and a dropdown menu. By default, it is set to XYZ. This means that the Z axis will carry both the X and Y. The Y axis will then carry the X, and the X will have no effect on the Y and Z. Try and read it from right to left as opposed to left to right. I find it's a little clearer in that manner. Have a play with changing the setting and seeing the rotational results.
Comparing World, Local and Gimbal rotate settings