My father's computer in the early 90s (probably 1991, or at the latest 1992) had a piece of software that acted as an application launcher. I think it was simply called "menu".
Its graphics were simple text-based ones, with all borders drawn as characters such as full block (similarly to classic DOS software like QBASIC and LOTUS 1-2-3).
The application simply displayed a 3x3 grid of white rectangles, and each had the name of a program in it. Pressing a function key (F1-F9) would launch the corresponding software, and page up/down switched "pages" (groups of 9 applications).
Other keys were used to edit which application corresponded to each rectangle, probably with the path to an executable and a display name.
Once an application was launched an exited, it would simply drop back to a command line. I think the command to make the menu appear again was simply
menu.This was definitely not run on Windows, simply MS-DOS.
I've tried a few searches but I couldn't find any reference to such a launcher. Given the simplicity, I think it's entirely possible that a programmer friend of my father had made it for us, but I'd like to be sure.