Update (29.9.12). Fixed the links to the website and images.
Update (4.9.09). Supports Maya 2009. Added menu item for Maya version 2009.
Update (17.7.09). Just updated the tool description page here, the tool itself was not changed.
Update (15.9.07). Supports Maya 2008. Added menu item for Maya version 2008.
Update (23.1.07). Supports Maya 8.5. Added menu items for Maya versions 8.0, 8.5.
This tool was designed to allow transformation of objects/components in various local axes. You first select the components/objects you would like to transform. Then you invoke the Local Tools and pick the component/object reference for the orientation you want to work in. Orientation reference can be an edge, vertex, face (including the normals), 2 points, other object space and more. After that you are free to perform any kind of transformation with Move/Rotate/Scale tools, including the option of numerical input in the channel box.
You could easily rotate a finger of the character in it's complex axis or make it longer with the scale tool aligned to that axis. You can position things along custom lines, straighten points to face normals or lines between 2 points and many other things.
You can also bake the active orientation to the object/s, aligning object/s local axes along components or quickly transforming the orientation from one object to another.
You can also scale in screen space using Local Tools. Check "Use Orientation Only". Enter the tool and instead of picking components/objects go to View --> Select Camera. Now you're able to scale in screen space.
Don't forget to use HUD shortcuts for accessing the Option Box and locking the pivot.
2 Point Reference:
Object space reference:
2 Object Reference:
Being able to only inherit the reference orientation:
I forgot to mention that if you select more than 1 component as a reference, Local Tools is going to average the normals and positions of the components and use them as the reference (exception being the 2 point reference). This allows you to do things like this:
The option box: (this is an old screen, today I have a much less annoying color scheme).
I've made an online documentation for the tool:
Please visit the download page for the video demo of the tool, I recommend to download the high quality version if you can.