Many professional Blender users find that the manipulator obstructs their view too much when working, so they disable it outright. To disable the manipulator, go to the 3D View's header near the manipulator mode buttons and click the button with the color axis icon. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl+Spacebar.
But wait, with the manipulator gone, how do I transform my objects? I'm glad you asked. Enter one of the most powerful features of Blender: hotkeys.
Part of the beauty of Blender's hotkeys are that they take a lot of pressure off of your mouse hand and shorten the distance of mouse-based operations. The accumulation of these little timesaving actions is what makes using hotkeys so powerful.
You can access nearly every piece of major functionality in Blender with hotkeys. Transforms are no exception. Translating in Blenderese is called grabbing. That naming has specific significance as it pertains to hotkeys. To see what I mean, use the following steps to Grab/Translate your object:
Congratulations! You're translating your object.
Cancel by right-clicking or pressing Esc.
To rotate your object, press R. Scale it by pressing S. See a pattern here? The majority of Blender's default hotkeys are easy ...