If you want to access your favorite programs as quickly as possible, you may find Microsoft Speed Launcher interesting.
Microsoft Speed Launcher is an application launcher from which you can access and run your most frequently used programs. Not only does it work with software, but it can also open web pages. Plus the program comes with a few handy shortcuts bundled as an example.
Microsoft Speed Launcher stays on your desktop at all times for quicker access, but being a semi-transparent icon on the bottom right corner it won't disturb you. You can always reduce the size of the icon or hide it completely (in which case you'll have to use a keyboard shortcut to open the launcher).
You can easily customize Microsoft Speed Launcher with your favorite programs, either using the built-in shortcut manager or simply dragging and dropping the executable file on the launcher's icon.
Microsoft Speed Launcher works fine as an app launcher, but it's not certainly the handiest I've seen. I miss having more configuration options plus a more comfy way to access shortcuts. Then again, the program is still under development, so hopefully it'll be improved in future versions.
Microsoft Speed Launcher lets you quickly access applications and websites from a desktop customizable menu.