I searched a bit but could not find it anywhere. Where do I make it so I don't have to press that Activities button on the top left in order to see my list of apps? either auto hide/show or always visible would be acceptable, but pressing a button is a pain.
Ubuntu includes a modified version of a GNOME extension that turns the Activities "dash" into a sort of dock. You should have that installed. Here is how to get at its settings:
However, you may not have it for some reason.
If you don't, you can install the standard set this way:
Alternatively, you might prefer the "full strength" version, which is called "Dash to Dock":
If you install the Firefox addon mentioned in my 2nd link, you can add extensions directly from the GNOME extensions site -- including Dash-to-Dock.
If you do that, I find that a few others significantly improve the GNOME 3 experience. I describe them here:
That may be helpful.