I've achieved this by using HTC Home, I click on the number of messages and I get my inbox. If I want to create a new message I've mapped a button to launch a blank message. I use HTC's Phone Pad as my input keyboard - it takes up a lot of real estate on the screen, but you can text very quickly with it.
None of these came out of the box with my O2 XDA Stellar, it took a few months of trial and error and searching for apps to find the ideal solution (for me).
Let me know if you want to see some screen grabs - I'll have to download some screen grab software...
Samsung Galaxy SIII upgraded from:
HTC One X (binned after three handsets with GPS and battery issues) upgraded from:
HTC Desire upgraded from:
O2 Xda Serra (HTC Touch Pro) Upgraded from:
O2 Xda Stellar (HTC TyTNII)
Now have Motorola Xoom too - love it, but it's a real missed opportunity