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The problem most people have with Windows Mobile touchscreen phones is the onscreen keyboard. Can HTC overcome that barrier with a hidden set of buttons?

On the first HTC Touch, our self-confessed fat-fingered editor couldn’t be doing with the teeny-weeny onscreen keypad (while we got up to speed thanks to the kind of thumbnails you need to prise daily contact lenses from their cases).

However, those point/counterpoint arguments have mainly been quashed because the HTC Touch Pro has added a few different kinds of software keyboards to assauge some of the naysayers. That includes a softkey pad with bigger keys and more options, which is very welcome even if it still can’t fully compete with the kind of excellent real buttons you’d find on a Palm smartphone or a Blackberry.

That said, the onscreen mechanism does seem more sturdy than the original system, although small controls and clumsy fingers are still prone to open the odd accidental email or web link. Thankfully, hidden within the candybar form of the HTC Touch Pro is a delicious hard centre.

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An extremely functional full set of keys makes using the Touch Pro like working on a real PC that slips neatly into your pocket. For our sins we already use it to browse email, open documents (using the installed Windows Mobile Office), edit copy and post to the web – proving its business moxy to anyone looking to skip the Blackberry route. If you need any further convincing, this phone is what we used to write what you’re reading right now…

One of our favourite options is the Text selection mod, which allows you to copy huge chunks without the scrolling action interfering – a top feature for anyone who needs to edit work on the go (insert your own joke here about journalists copying and pasting).

A few weeks working with the HTC Touch Pro reveals some other useability gems. For example, switching programs mid-use is easy if you have them both open and then press the Home button to get back to the main screen. You can then skip to any other programme, using the icon positioned at the very top-right of the screen that shows all open programmes.

However, there is an issue with the sat-nav system. The device struggles to connect to satellites in built up areas and with no mapping software of its own it has to rely on Google maps. It’s a little bit annoying to know where you are on a map but to see your dot approximated at a few streets away because of a lack of signal.

That said, a look at the market shows a number of full-keyboard slider phones coming our way. But for right now, this is the bees knees. If bees had knees…

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