One of the semi-hidden features of the GNOME desktop is keyboard shortcuts. They allow you to bind certain actions to specific key strokes. I've made the following bindings (or perhaps they came as defaults, I no longer remember):
- Alt-Ins opens up my web browser.
- Alt-Home opens up my home folder.
- Alt-PageUp maximizes the current window vertically.
- Alt-End opens a terminal window.
- Shift-Control-Up arrow increases volume.
- Shift-Control-Down arrow decreases volume.
- Shift-Control-Space toggles audio play/pause.
I use these all the time, probably dozens of times per day.
On many keyboards there are special keys you can bind to the actions. However, I use a Das Keyboard, with just the basic 105 keys of the European PS/2 layout, and thus I prefer the Alt/Shift/Control combos.
I used to have panel launchers for some of these, but they required aiming and clicking with the mouse. These keyboard shortcuts are much more efficient.