Hopefully this is the most appropriate board for this ....
In my search for 'classic Windows' functionality, I discovered a straightforward way to create a 'document launcher' - a special folder similar to a Windows Start Menu customization. The steps are:
1) Create a folder in your home directory (or other location of your choice). This folder will contain shortcuts, er, soft links to documents anywhere in your file system.
2) Using the Thunar File Manager, navigate to the document (or any file) of choice, right click and select 'Send to Desktop (Create Link)'
3) Create a Directory Menu applet on one of your panels: Panel Preferences -> Items -> Add New Item (+ symbol)
4) Edit the properties (Base Directory) of the Desktop Menu applet to point to the folder created in step 1.
5) Click on the Directory Menu and select Open Folder.
6) Drag the desktop link to the open DM folder, then close the folder.
7) Drag the desktop link to the trash, if necessary or desired.
- You're done!
To add another document, just repeat steps 2, 5 and 6.
To launch a document, click on the Directory Menu and select the document. Ta, da!
EDIT - I just discovered that this feature is new to xfce v4.8 as in Mint 12 and LMDE, older versions of xfce don't appear to have it.