A while back, I noticed a serious shortcomming in the paint system of maya. As my rigs became more complex, so increased the number of joints I used. I also got back in there to add joints for better deformation. All this made it pretty much impossible to switch quickly from joint to joint to balance the skin weights. After some research I learned that the UI can actually be modified. So I did, to incorporate a filter option and buttons to lock/unlock all the filtered influences.

to install, first download the files here and extract them to your maya script folder. Usually this folder can be found in "documents/maya" or "documents/maya/[version]" if you only want to use the filter in specific maya versions. Putting it there will supercede the file maya originally uses, which will remain unchanged. So if you want to get rid of the extra functionality for any reason, just delete the files and you`re back to the original.

As you now use the paint weights tool, you`ll notice a few differences. First, a new filter-textfield. The list of influences is longer and new "lock all" and "unlock all" buttons. The filter uses the gmatch MEL command wich is itterated over by all the parts separated by spaces. Use the * to fill in anything you want. So, in the example, "leg*" will show all the items which have "leg" and then whatever. Use the ? for any character you don`t care about. In this case you need a ? for every character that is unspecified. Use the numpad-enter to execute the filtering. In the example below, you can see that you can search on multiply strings. Separated by spaces you can show all the influences containing "leg*" OR "wing*" OR "head??jaw*". For more information you can always look at the gmatch command in the MEL reference.

NOTE: When you first open the tool you`ll find the filter-textfield empty and the influence list unfiltered. After you have used the filter, to get back to the complete list, filter on "*". As filtering on no string will yield no results.

The "lock all" and "unlock all" buttons only work on the filtered items.