You can skip using the Start Menu, desktop icons, or Windows Explorer and just use Launchy
instead. Launchy is a open-source keystroke launcher for Windows XP (BTW: you can hit the start button and type app names in Vista to launch apps.) The app indexes your Start Menu programs and files so you can launch any application, document, files, folder, or bookmark with just a few keystrokes. When Launchy is running, it hides in the background, but you can bring it up by holding down "Alt" and hitting the spacebar. You then type in a few letters of the program or file you want and hit "Enter" when Launchy finds it. You can leave Launchy visible or hit "Alt" and spacebar again to re-hide it. The app itself is completely skinnable, and there is a gallery of custom skins
for you to choose from.