yep, you can select several faces and hit a number to asign that selection of faces and smooth group. The limits of that chunk will have hard edges…without the need of breaking the mesh. An automatic way, but with less control, is hitting that button, autosmooth, but be sure you did set a good number for it. If you get wrong, just hit “clear all”.
(rememeber to right click in viewport where says “top”, “left” or whatever , to set the viewing as smooth, smooth and highlights, whichever.)
Sometimes during conversions or exports, meshes get verts doubled, unwelded…you may need to do a target weld. Some software, like milkshape, have it easier with option, “weld together”, or Blender “remove doubles”.
but to me, the smoothing groups workflow in max keeps been slower and less flexible than in Wings or Maya, for getting your hard edges and smoothed surfaces (vertex normals).(I like Max, but as with any tool, not all is perfect.)
man you’d better remove that feeling of hate towards a tool: seems is your job tool, and the sooner you get the grips, the sooner your life will be way easier…is just a tool, like any other.Uber deep, of course, but is one of its strengths. (I keep using it at jobs and enjoying own tools at home…absolutely possible to learn both and whichever they put in front of you. )