Objects in 3DS Max are manipulated mainly through these four tools. It is very important to your speed in using the program to learn their shortcuts and uses.
a. Select Mode
Shortcut is Q. This mode allows you to select objects in the scene by left clicking on them, or by drag selecting a box to select any object that touches the box. This mode is generally the “default” state of your interaction with the software and you will generally return to it between actions.
Shortcut is W. Also called “Move”. Activating this tool will display a movement gizmo in your 3D view. Clicking and dragging on each of the arrows will move whatever you have selected along that arrow’s axis. These arrows correspond to the Axis Guide on the bottom left of the 3D Viewport.
Note that below the viewport there are three text entry boxes labeled X, Y and Z. Entering numbers into these boxes will translate your selection by these amounts. Note that clicking on any of the squares between each arrow will allow you to move in two axis at once instead of just one.
Shortcut is E. This gizmo will give you a ball with round loops that are also color-coded based on their axis. Clicking and dragging on these rings will rotate the selected object around that axis. Clicking and dragging on the larger grey ring will rotate the object around the axis of your view. Clicking anywhere between the rings will allow the object to tumble in all three axis at once.
Note that the same text entry boxes for Translate/Move also work for Rotate as well.
This tool will create a small inside-out pyramid. Clicking and dragging on any one of the labeled axis and dragging will scale the object on only that axis. Clicking and dragging on the inside the pyramid so that the entire center lights up will scale the object uniformly about all three axis at once. Clicking and dragging on one of the smaller chevron areas will scale the object on only two axis at once.
Note that the same text entry boxes for Translate/Move also work for Scale as well.