I think it is only right that the default setting for KDE4 should be very basic, as close as possible to KDE3. However the stuff on tap, waiting for you to play with it is brilliant! I like to have a second panel with shortcuts to all my most-used programs on it.
Here is how you set up such a panel.
First, click on the Cashew at the top right of the screen. It's more useful than it looks.
All your windows will be minimised and a menu will appear. If you can see an option to Unlock widgets, click it. If the option is to Lock Widgets, they are unlocked already. Then click on Add Panel. A second cashew will appear, usually in the top left corner. It's quite small, and in an oblong. That oblong is actually a very empty panel. Click on the little cashew.
A grey panel will appear, just clear of one edge of the screen. In the middle of it, you can see the words "Screen Edge". Drag that button to the screen edge you want your panel, if not there already. I recommend the top of the screen. After some operations the grey panel vanishes, just click on its cashew to bring it back. Click on "More Settings" and under panel alignment, "Center". You will see some sliders you can use to make the panel wider. Drag them away from the centre and you will see the panel become a useful size.
The next stage is to put some icons on it. Open Dolphin, and navigate to /usr/share/applications. You will see a number of icons with the extension ".desktop". You will also see another folder, kde4, with more icons. To add an icon to the panel, simply drag and drop it onto the panel. It should be easy enough to work out which icons correspond to the programs you use most.
When you click on the cashew at the end, to make your big grey settings panel appear, you can change the order of your icons. You can also add spacers. When it's all set up to your liking, and with the big grey settings panel showing, click on "More Settings" and select "Auto Hide". Now whenever your mouse pointer hits that edge of the screen, up pops your shortcut panel.
Now all the debate over whether Tex should have had a deep layered menu or a long, shallow one are a thing of the past, because all your commonly-used programs are quickly on tap.