Here's an overview of what can be found in the latest version of BonusTools for Maya, covering some of the most useful everyday tools for Maya artists. For a complete review of all the individual tools, check out the video below.
With the overhaul of the UI in Maya 2016, the BonusTools menu sets have been reorganized to match up and make it easier to find what you're looking for. Once installed, you'll find a corresponding menu set for BonusTools at the bottom of each Maya menu set.
BonusTools have also been integrated with the marking menus so that you can quickly access them through the viewport. Note that everything that's new in Maya 2016 is color coded in green text.
New tools for duplication can be found under the Edit Menu.
Duplicate as Mesh Reference works in a similar way to the standard duplicate as instance. When a polygon object is duplicated and the topology is edited, the edit is passed on to the mesh reference in the same way as with a normal instance. The difference is that it allows for a composited effect, so that additional edits can be made to the target mesh which becomes like a layer onto the other mesh.
This is a functionality that originally comes from 3DS Max, and while it's not new in Maya it's been hidden before.
Another new tool is the Paint Duplicate on Object. To use it select a source object followed by a target object and apply the Paint Duplicate on Object tool. This brings up a simplified UI for creating duplicates or instances of the source object directly on the surface of the target object simply by clicking and painting. A useful feature is that it can be set up to orient the duplicate objects to the normals of the target surface. Holding down ctrl lets you paint and remove objects, while holding down shift lets you modify the scale of the newly created objects directly in the viewport.
This works in a similar way to the old Paint Geometry Tool but it's easier to use and the UI has been simplified.
Under the Create Menu there's a new Mesh Locator which looks and acts like a standard Maya Locator but is an actual piece of geometry that can be rendered. It has length and thickness attributes to control the arms, making it more visible in a Maya scene.
It's now easier to organize and find your favorite tools with the Separator on Shelf, which is also located under the Create Menu and lets you add as many separators as you like to the shelves. This feature is new in Maya 2016, but is hidden from the UI.
There's also a few new tools under the Modify Menu that are very useful for more accurate hard surface modeling in Maya. One is the Edge Segment Snapping, which quickly enables a hidden preference allowing you to snap to the divisions within an edge. By holding down c and middle-mouse clicking on an edge you get constrained snapping along the full length of that edge, and using the Edge Segment Snapping you have the option of snapping to the center, in thirds, or in quarters.
When curves are created in Maya their pivot is relative to the origin by default, so things like scale and rotate work relative to the origin as well. The Move Curve Pivot to First CV moves the pivot of each curve to its own unique origin or CV 0, so that the curve can be rotated relative to the base. This is useful when creating things like guide curves for xgen.
Under the Display Menu you'll now find an option to Toggle x-ray per mesh basis, which lets you single out specific objects to view in x-ray mode while you're modeling or laying out your scenes in Maya. There's also a new option to unlock an orthographic view through the Orthographic Control, which gives you a quick way to rotate around an object from a side view in orthographic perspective.
One of the new modeling tools found under the Modeling Menu is the Convert n-sided faces to quads, which finds all n-sided faces (faces with more than four edges) on a mesh and automatically converts them to quads (four-sided faces) for you.
Here you also find the Combine and Copy Last Pivot which addresses an issue when that can arise when working with multiple objects, which when combined will have their pivot in the middle by default, something that can be annoying when trying to scale or rotate them together. The Combine and Copy Last Pivot allows you to quickly use any object as the pivot source based on the selection order, where the last selected controls the pivot.
Another thing to make life easier is the new tool to Slide Edge Loop and Preserve UV's, which will automatically keep the UV's in place when sliding an edge loop. In the past, this would have resulted in distorted UV's that would have had to be manually re-edited.
BonusTools is a free collection of tools and scripts for Maya, that's released by Autodesk every year, and follows the release of Maya proper. It can be found here: