While there are a variety of ways to launch programs in OS X - desktop shortcut, the dock or the applications folder - there' no shortage of alternative launcher tools. Many of these are designed to replace the dock, but AppWatcher is a very simple little tool that aims to complement it instead.
You can still use the dock to launch programs, but AppWatcher is also available in the menu bar. The program monitors how you use your computer and maintains a list of the programs you use most often. By clicking the menu bar icons you can gain access to shortcuts to your most frequently used applications as well as those you have launched recently.
Keyboard shortcuts are automatically assigned to each entry in the list so you may find that you do not need to make use of the menu at all. AppWatcher is completely free of charge, and while it is a very basic tool, it is also highly functional and very useful.