Surviving Blender coming from Maya

For those who worked with Maya, Blender UI presents a nightmare. Even simple tasks of navigating the views or adjusting the camera poses a big challenge, with the Blender's native misuse of 'right mouse button'.

However, you can survive past those initial hurdles with few adjustments in the preferences. In the below I list few common challenges that Maya users face with Blender and how to circumvent them, if not eliminate them completely.

  • Right Mouse Button Selection:This one is the source of all evil. This is what happens if you do not follow the well-established usage conventions and software UI behavioral patterns.

    Luckily the adamantium got depleted at Blender camp and now, as of version 2.68, they ship Maya Preset bundled by default that works flawlessly in mimicking the native Maya selection behavior. Select it from the File|User Preferences menu option, then the Input tab and Presets dropdown box.

  • Scale, Rotate, Move: You can use your E, R, T usual shortcuts for these, using the Maya Presetconfiguration.
  • Viewport Shading mode: Again, the Maya preset takes care of this one nicely. Press 4, 5 and 6 keys as you would have in Maya and now your viewport makes the meshes appropriately.
  • Perspective / Ortho views:Well, for this one, the Blender native shortcuts are, NumPad-0 through Numpad-7. Not an ergonomic choice, given that NumPad keys are half way across the globe in the eastern side of keyboard (which is not your keyboard hand's natural resting position), and also most laptops do not have NumPad keys (know your customers: open-source 3D modeling software customers more likely to be trying Blender on laptops for a quick peek rather than a dedicated professional setup in their initial stages).

    But luckily, you can now use Ctrl+0 through Ctrl+7 shortcuts for the same effect. No need for NumPad keys. Agreed, Ctrl+0 is not same as NumPad-0 (two keys vs one key) but atleast you have a way out. (There are some scripts also in the Blender Add-ons that might be able to help you with this one.)

  • Camera Navigation: Perhaps, the most irritating feature (or, shall I say bug) that you encounter in Blender (coming from Maya) is, once you are in Camera perspective (Ctrl+0 short-cut, same as 'look through camera' feature of Maya) if you try to adjust its positioning by transformation or rotation, the view goes out of camera perspective. There is just no way you could adjust your camera while looking through it. You would have to use two views, one to look through the camera, and the other to adjust the camera like a normal 3D-object. Yuck.

    Luckily, at least in latest build 2.68 of Blender, you have a way out of this. Actually not one, but two ways. First is, press Shift+F within camera perspective (with the camera border selected), you enter a Fly mode. Then you can position the camera by using mouse-wheel and buttons.

    But I have a more better option. With the camera selected, go to its View properties, and select Lock Camera to View check box. Once ticked, then you can just use your regular Pan, Zoom etc. keys to adjust the scene and your Camera indeed gets adjusted. Once you are done, you can uncheck it and get along with your model as usual.

By the way, it is not for nothing that companies like Apple or Microsoft spends millions of dollors in conducting detailed UI behavioral profiling studies, time and again proving: "Being creative is pefectly possible without voilating conventions". Though who or what defines convention is upto each individual to decide for oneself.

Comments (8)
  1. Jimmy Gunawan Blendersushi says:

    If you want to be serious with Blender, use Blender native workflow not Maya preset.. LMB to RMB takes just a little while but soon you realize that RMB workflow is fine, you just need to switch gear in brain.

  2. Sounds like RFC 1925: "…With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine…".

    Luckily the RFC further reason about it: "…However, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they

           are going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead…."

  3. Serban says:

    can anyone tell me who I can remove from selection using shift drag but I cannot add to selection that way? it's really fustrating :(((

  4. Serban says:

    found the solution…/showthread.php

    and at the last step select shift key for select and deselect


  5. mikeg says:

    The remark that learn to do it my way is moronic..

    Blender has the technical potential but is clearly not written with a broad base of users in mind

    The resistance to following common convention s is wasteful and damaging to Blender in the long run..

    Users are the sole purpose for any tool to exist.. Maya student version was provided using conventional

    tools because the developer saw the importance of building its user base

    and Blender should recognize that need as well if it intends to serve more than a few users…

  6. Neo Geo says:

    Hey anyone know how to do the maya classic Alt+LMB+MMB zoom hotkeys in Blender. I used wacom tablet alot for modelling with middle and back button assigned to their mouse equivalent. It's quite tiring to hover and zoom while if i can activate the LMB+MMB i can rest the pen tip on the tablet surface and use the middle button to zoom.

  7. ari-free says:

    Anyone who spends not $30 or even $300 but several thousand dollars because they couldn't adapt to a few UI controls….what can I say? I don't want them in charge of spending my money that's for sure!

  8. Greg says:

    Gopalakrisna is wrong. If you learn Blenders controls, you'll find that they are much better in the long run. Maya's controls are broken and poorly thought out, Blenders are instead extremely well thought out. Unfortunately, they are different than Maya's (which weren't original anyway, they copied existing software). So, instead of criticizing Blender for not being a clone of Maya, realize that it's different for a reason and get over your handicap.

    Blender's controls are all designed to be used with the left hand on keyboard, right hand on mouse, with the shortest possible reach distance for the controls. Blender is also designed to be used with hotkeys and not buttons on the screen, because if you learn the hotkeys it's an order of magnitude faster to model.

    Also, if you select a Camera, changing your view shouldn't change the camera, that's just broken design. I can't count how many times in Maya I messed up my perfect camera angle by changing the view, only to realize I wasn't in "Perspective". By then, it's usually too late to undo. It's pretty ridiculous that you can extremely easily change the camera by accident in Maya. Blender you have to explicitly change the camera, and when your done it will stay put like it should.

    It's funny. ZBrush has extremely different controls from any other 3D application, yet people love ZBrush and have NO TROUBLE learning it's eccentric controls. Blender is also extremely different from other 3D applications, but everyone just wants it to be a free version of Maya. It's not. It's extremely different because it's better for work and solves problems Maya, 3DS Max, and others have.

    Learn Blender like you would learn ZBrush – as a new way of making 3D models. Don't think of it as "Free Maya" because that's stupid and you'll just be pissed off that you can't learn a new way of thinking.

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