Is there a way to see installed apps in a more conventional (to a Mac user!) way, like a folder with a load of app icons, or a list, or anything other than that odious semi-transparent flip out thing that's difficult to see (cos there's loads of crap showing through it), can't be resized and keeps disappearing when I click something..?
What version of Ubuntu are you using? Ubuntu 16.04 Gnome Software has three tabs at the top of the software center, All installed, Updates if you click on Installed it will give you a list of all the installed programs on your machine
You can install another desktop environment (for a Mac user I recommend XFCE4). A tutorial here on how to do so:
Also if the fact that it's always there bugs you, you can edit it to only appear when you move your mouse to that side of the screen, or the top left corner by going into system settings -> appearance -> behavior and edit settings under auto-hide the launcher. Hope this helps!