Autodesk Maya Tips & Tricks - Manipulators
These Autodesk Maya tips for using the manipulators are extremely simple, yet even many experienced Maya users don't know them. These Autodesk Maya tips can really speed up your everyday workflow:
Concerning the Translate, Rotate and Scale manipulators (hotkeys w, e, r respectively) you don't actually have to click the arrows, blocks and rings to use them in the viewport. Instead, you can simply press and hold the middle-mouse-button (mmb) and drag. This will modify the object using the last active handle.
Better yet, if you hold down shift mmb and drag in a given direction, Maya will activate the manipulator handle most aligned with the direction dragged, relative to the active viewport. For example, select a cube and in the perspective view port hold shift mmb and drag to the right. The cube will move, constrained to the z axis. Try it for the other axes!
Or try another direction. Remember, don't even click the manipulator arrows. It doesn't matter where your mouse cursor is in the viewport, this will always work, regardless:
Another great manipulator tip: hold ctrl when clicking on a manipulator handle. This will move or scale the object in two axes simultaneously. This is the same as clicking on that little square inner box. This has been an Autodesk Maya feature since long before it was known as "Autodesk Maya". (Back in those days we just called it "Maya". Granted, among co-workers we still do.) The little square indicator box was added circa 2014. This lesser known hotkey is very useful for quickly scaling or arranging objects without having to be too accurate with the mouse.