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Unity, which is based on GNOME 3.0, uses its left-hand launcher bar to start applications and gets you to the file manager. If that doesn't work for you, there's always the search everything, everywhere interface.
Need a new application? Ubuntu Software Center, which works somewhat like CNET's Download.com, makes it easy to find, pick, and install programs.
Under Unity, Ubuntu still makes it easy to manage your PC's settings.