In the main viewport you can select things by faces, edges, vets, etc. and convert the selection to UVs. Just hold down control, left-click-hold and then drag to which thing you want to convert your conversion to (so 'To UVs' in this case). You can select an entire object/element by going to face selection mode and double-clicking on the object.
In the UVW Editing window, if you have a shell (an isolated bunch of UVs that have been detached from the rest of the UVs) you can select one of the UVs and go to Select > Select Shell, and it'll select the whole thing.
oh my goodnish thanks for answering so quickly. + w + is it alright if i come to you with other questions in the future? today I got stuck on a lot of small things that probably coulda been solved much more quickly just by asking someone with experience..
Ooh, I'll have to try that the next time I have access to a recent Maya! I usually just hit the unwrap button and hope the result isn't too bad. Clicking on "Display Border Edges" would have made for a better first panel though.