Blender Overview : Windows Comparison



First of all lets take a quick look at the general user interface of blender before we start on a sort of direct windows comparison between maya and blender.

The interface is made up of various windows. We can drag these windows around to the dimensions you prefer by grabbing the edges with the left mouse button and simply dragging.



We can switch what type of window appears where by selecting the icon on the far left of the header in each window.

Note there’s one of these icons on the header at the very top of the screen. This menu bar is actually just the header of another window within Blender. We can drag that down to see more of the contents.

And like any other window it can be switched to display any other window type. For example a 3d view or an outliner.

There is an exception however, what may appear to be a window to the left here, is actually a toolshelf sidebar and is part of the 3d view. We can toggle this on and off with the shortcut key ‘T’ for toolshelf. There is a properties sidebar for the opposite side of the 3dview that can be toggled on and off with the ‘N’ key.

So with that out of the way let’s do a straight up windows comparison between maya and blender.


By the way I’m not suggesting that one interface is any better than another, however, if you are familiar with the contents of maya’s interface, hopefully this will serve to quickly help find your feet and be off running in blender and through the sprint maybe this could be a roadmap or a GPS of sorts, or maybe more aptly simply a google translation which finally, mercifully completely derails the running motion metaphor.


Lets start with the…

Menu Bar

In blender we can find this as the header in the info window at the top of the screen. You may be wondering where the rest of it is as there’s only a handful of menus. Look no further than the header of the 3D View.

Here we can also use a pull down menu to choose a different operating mode for the objects in our scene which changes the type of options that appear in the menu based on the context of the mode. This is similar to the menu sets at the start of maya’s status line.

Status Line

The status line in Maya gives us some options for switching between object and component mode, or edit mode as blender calls it, we’ve actually already seen. It is achieved by switching the mode with the pull down menu in the header of the 3d View. (The Circled area from the above Blender screenshot). Once in edit mode the individual components (vertices, edges and faces) can be seen further along this same header bar of the 3D View.

There is a shortcut for this which is the ‘Tab’ Key – this will toggle between ‘Edit mode’ and ‘Object mode’.



Next along Maya’s status line are the masking tools (enabling certain types of objects to be disregarded when selecting in the viewport). There isn’t a direct method of ‘masking’ in blender. However we can sort of replicate that behaviour by using a combination of the 3dView and the outliner.

We can select by type – and then select mesh for example.

Then in the outliner, show only selected items. Then press ‘a’ to select all while the cursor is within the outliner window and then ‘s’ to toggle the selectability of the meshes. Note the arrow icon represents whether an item can be selected in the 3d view or not. The eye represents visibility, and the camera represents renderability.



By doing this we have effectively created a mask of sorts useful while working at an object level.

While in a component level or switching to ‘edit mode’ (in blender parlance) you then have access in the header of the 3dview to select ‘vertex’, ‘edge’ or ‘face’ selection types. We can even shift select them to have multiple types available for selection similar to the ‘multi’ select mode in maya. The hotkey for the sub-object selection type is Ctrl and tab.

Further down the status line we have our snapping options with everyone’s favourite ubiquitous mr magnet icon. Further down the 3D view header we have the same mr magnet moonlighting for yet another snapping gig in blender. The pull down menu to the side gives us our snapping particulars.


Incidentally the shortcut for snapping while moving is to hold down the control key in blender rather than ‘x’ ‘c’ or ‘v’ as we have in maya. We can change snapping type in blender by selecting from the menu that appears with the shortcut ‘Ctrl Shift and Tab’.

Further down the status line are the rendering icons represented by the similarly flirtatious and ubiquitous mr clapperboard icons.

Spookily this again can be seen likewise further down in the 3dview header of blender.

However, be warned! These buttons will generate just a simple playblast or screenshot of the viewport render.

An actual render is generated by the F12 shortcut key. Or by using the render menu in the info window. The render settings can be found in the first tab of the properties window (shown as a camera icon)

Finally we have the input box. Allowing us to make absolute and relative transforms, and some name selections and changes.

Name changes in blender can be done in many areas. In the properties sidebar at the bottom we can rename, or we can doubleclick on the name in the outliner. There is also a location in the properties window on the right side under the outliner which allows us to rename.

We can select by name by choosing ‘select’ and then ‘select by pattern’ in the 3d view header. The asterix will act as a ‘wild card’ allowing it to stand in for any potential characters that may fall before or after the characters you do enter. e.g. *a* will select the camera and the lamp. This is highlighted in blue in the image above.

In the properties sidebar we can enter in absolute transforms. Or put mathematical operations at the end to perform relative transforms. e.g. +2.

Blender has the ‘move’ tool mapped to the ‘G’ for grab key. We can press G then specify an axis with the X, Y or Z key and then type in a numerical value to move it that amount along the direction/axis specified.


Tool Shelves

As we can see here, Maya loves it’s icons. Blender on the other hand prefers to stick mostly to textual intercourse “FUN PHRASE! :)” with very little in the way of frills and spills.

The closest equivalent of the tool shelf in blender is the similarly named toolshelf sidebar in the 3d view.

The contents of this will change depending on the 3d view’s editing mode. So if we’re in editing mode or sculpting mode the tools in the toolshelf will change to reflect the purpose of those modes.

One of the most useful aspects of maya’s tool shelf is the ability to customise it and add your most commonly reached for tools and scripts. This is one area within blender that without scripting it wont be possible to easily add a customised toolshelf.


Down the left hand side of the default layout of maya is the toolbox. The closest equivalent of this is the header of the 3D view where we can see the move, rotate and scale icons. While in Object mode these tools also show in the top of the toolshelf.

Further down we can see the various maya window layouts like the quadview and so on. This area is hard to see on the low resolution screen unfortunately.

In blender this area is in the header at the top of the screen and the layouts are tailored to common tasks such as animating/uv editing/scripting and so on. By clicking the plus button we can copy the current layout and use it as a template to customise our own.

As an aside there is a shortcut ‘Ctrl Alt and Q’ that can be used to toggle the 3dview between it’s current view and a quadview (a view that contains 3 orthographic views and a perspective or camera view).

RangeSlider and Timeline

This can be found in the same kind of area running along the bottom of the interface. This single window in blender incorporates the rangeslider and the timeline.

ChannelBox/Attribute Editor

The channelbox & Attribute Editor in maya shows all the nodes of all the operations on the selected object. This can be quite powerful if some of these settings need to be tweaked at a later stage.

Blender doesn’t have a direct comparison to this. The closest equivalents are the properties sidebar where we have access to the selected objects location in 3d space.

As blender works with a modifier system, many commands and settings that manipulate the mesh can be found in this tab of the properties window.

These in a sense are the closest equivalents to maya’s channelbox.

Layer Editor

In blender we have a very simple layer system. There are 20 layers available and can be seen in the 3dview header. There is an addon or plugin that adds some more functionality to this, however, this is a work in progress. See the link here.

Command Line

In blender this is represented as the main body of the info window. And, the python console window.


2 areas to watch for are on the right of the header at the top of the screen in the info window. And while performing an operation such as moving or cutting with the knife tool the 3d view header at the bottom of the screen will often give us some feedback or hints.

And that’s it!! That should wrap up this basic windows comparison between maya and blender, I hope it serves as some kind of GPS that doesn’t drive you into a field or off a cliff.  Many thanks for your time and extra kudos for reading to the end!


Here’s a link to the next section – Hotkey Customising….

blender customising the interface

Here’s a link back to the list of all videos in this Blender Overview series….

blender overview

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  • Mushogenshin Kyakunohoshi

    Thank you very much for writing this helpful introduction!

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