The main reason for customizing how Maya looks is to give you more
room to animate, and while it won't be all that much, every little
bit counts. It's also great if you have a smaller screen or work on
a laptop as it allows you to see more of your shot and not have to
move your work camera so much.
For this tip, I'll be going over all the steps that I used to get
Maya to look like the image below. Keep in mind that these changes
are to help with productivity and make Maya as comfortable to use as
possible, so if you find any of the steps take away from that, feel
free to leave them out. This is your workspace and you should have
it the way you like it.
The key to removing so many different elements from the Maya user
interface is an often unused feature of Maya: The Hotbox. This is a
special menu that will come up when you hold down the spacebar in
any of the viewports or editors, such as the Graph Editor. In it,
you'll find nearly every tool that is taking up some of your
By default, the Hotbox has 9 rows of commands, each of which is
organized by type.
1st - The first row contains the basic commands you would find on
the Main Menu bar at the very top of Maya.
2nd - These commands are the current viewport or editor commands and
will change according to what is active. For example, if you are
working in the viewport, you can use it to hide or show nurbs
curves, whereas if you are in the Graph Editor, all the graph centric
commands will be shown, such as showing buffer curves.
3rd - This line is divided into three parts:
"Recent Commands" is pretty self explanatory, as it allows you to
see the most recent commands you used in Maya.
"Maya" is the center zone of the Hotbox, which I will be going over
in more detail further down.
"Hotbox Controls" is where the customization options are for the
Hotbox. Here you'll be able to hide the rows you are not using and
turn zones on & off.
4th to 9th - These are all the menus you would usually find at the
top, under the main menu bar. The great thing with the Hotbox is
that it allows you to see all of them at once instead of having to
switch to each one individually. If you find you never use certain
menu sets, such as the Dynamics set on the 7th line, you can always
hide them and make the Hotbox more compact.
Now, about those zones I mentioned earlier. You may have noticed
that the Hotbox has 4 diagonal lines going out from it. These
indicate the 4 of the 5 different Hotbox zones, or Marking Menus as
they are sometimes called, that surround the main menus. The 5th can
be found right in the center, over the Maya square. If you click and
hold the left mouse button anywhere in-between these lines, you will
get even more commands to help you work even faster.
Here's what you'll find in each zone.
Center zone - Common Modeling Panes. This allows you to switch
between the common cameras, such as Perspective, Front, Side, and Top.
North zone - Viewport Layouts. These are the same controls you will
find on the bottom half of the toolbox.
East zone - UI Elements (such as the shelf, time slider, and
toolbox) on/off controls
West zone - Selection Masks. There is an Animation mask in there but
sadly, it's set up to only select joints and handles, not curves.
South zone - Editor Windows. This is a great fast way to get to most
of the editors that you need while animating, such as the graph
editor or dope sheet.
If you find that these zones configurations aren't helpful, you can
customize them by going under "Window > Settings/Preferences >
Marking Menus". There is too much to go over in this post, but you
can find info on it in the Maya help which you can access by hitting
the F1 key.
It will take some time to get used to using the Hotbox, but once you
do, it's time to start hiding the menus and panels we don't need
anymore. So let's go through and see which ones have become obsolete.
This is easily removable as all the important tools such as the
Translate and Rotate can be accessed by the hotkeys Q through T and
the Quick Layout buttons can be accessed from the second row of the
Hotbox under Panels > Layouts. To remove it, head to "Display > UI
Elements" and uncheck "Tool Box".
This is a great way to optimize your workspace that I learned from
While I prefer to keep the Shelf because it allows you to access
your AM tools and also becomes even more useful when you start
creating your own Mel scripts, which I will be talking about in
class 2, you can still minimize how much space the Shelf takes by
turning off the name tabs at the top. You can do that simply by
clicking on the upside down triangle to the left of the Shelf and
unchecking "Shelf Tabs". But how do you move between the different
Shelves without any tabs to get there? If you click on the button
above the triangle, a popup with all the Shelves will appear
allowing you to easily switch.
Here's where it gets a bit tougher to choose whether to keep or
remove. While overall the status line doesn't typically have much
use for animation, it does have the pickmasks that allow you to
choose what you can and cannot select in your shot. I haven't
managed to find a way to replace it completely, but if you add the
objects you don't want to be able to select into a referenced layer,
it basically achieves the same result. Like the Tool Box, you can
hide it by going to "Display > UI Elements" and unchecking "Status
Finally, let's move on to the Main menus, Panel menu, and Panel
Toolbar. If you start using the Hotbox on a regular basis, you'll
start to find that these all contain redundant information that you
don't need hanging around and cluttering your workspace. To toggle
them on and off, you can use the following hotkeys:
Main menu - "Ctrl + m" - Once you become accustomed to using the
Hotbox, you'll actually find that it can be far more useful than the
Main menu. While the Main menu only shows you the current menu set,
such as the animation menu set, the Hotbox will give you access to
all the menu sets at once, getting rid of the need to keep switching.
Panel menu - "Shift + m" - Pretty much the same as the Main menu, the
Panel menu can easily be accessed by on the second row of the Hotbox.
Panel Toolbar - "Ctrl + Shift + m" - This one is a bit harder to get
rid of. While you can access all the Panel Toolbar tools from the
Hotbox, you will need to navigate through the Panels section of the
Hotbox to access everything, which can be a bit of a pain and a time
waster. But if you find yourself not using those options very much
anyway, it's a great way to save a bit of space.
Now that we've saved space, there is one tweak I like to do that is
a bit counterproductive to our space saving, and that is to make the
timeline twice as tall. This may seem odd since the basic timeline
works fine, but I find it easier to see the keys and also, when you
import audio into Maya, makes the waveform of the audio clip easier
to see. To increase the size of the timeline, go to "Window >
Settings/Preferences > Preferences" and under the Time Slider
section, you will find a button with 2x beside Height. Just select
that and you're good to go.
This doesn't really have to do with customizing your workspace, but
since we're already in the Time Slider section of the Preferences
window, there is one more setting I like to change. In the Playback
area, you will find a setting called "Update view". If you set that
to "All", it will make it so when you scrub or play through the
timeline, every open viewport will update at the same time, which is
great as you can now easily compare your animation from different
angles simultaneously. The only downside is that it takes quite a bit
more resources, so you'll need a computer that can handle it.
I hope that this was useful and helps you create a workspace that
increases your productivity and makes Maya more comfortable to use.
As always, feel free to contact either Cameron or me at any time if
you have any questions or comments.