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On Windows and Ubuntu I can use +1 to start the first app in the Dock, +2 to start the second app in the Dock, etc. How can I achieve same effect in OS X? Is it some built-in functionality or third-party extension?

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You could save scripts like this somewhere in AppleScript Editor and give them shortcuts with for example Alfred or FastScripts.

tell application "System Events" to tell process "Dock"
    perform action "AXPress" of UI element 5 of list 1
end tell

(Just assigning fixed shortcuts for each application would probably be a better option though.)

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Seems that alternative is "expose". I can arrange items here so app became selected by only entering first letter of it's name. So switching to "mail" is as fast as clicking "f4", then "m" and then "enter". It's a bit more keys compared to "win-4", but much more flexible.

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You might try some of the launcher apps like Quicksilver (my personal choice) or Alfred as both will allow you to specify a hotkey for an application, script, etc.

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Any of them can launch apps from dock? – Eye of Hell May 8 '12 at 16:58
They're a lot more flexible than that, but yes, in Quicksilver anyway you can assign a custom trigger to open anything that QS can catalog. I invoke QS to open ARD/VNC windows, open and switch apps, assign ratings to songs in iTunes, etc - I basically never use the Dock anymore. It's really powerful. – da4 May 9 '12 at 17:01

Not so fast as special hotkeys you ask for, but a little bit more flexible and build in:

You can use CTRL+F3 to select the first dock icon (or last used) and then switch per left and right between your dock icons. With Return you can open the selected application or with up open the context menu.

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