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Whether you are new to forex or a seasoned trader, choosing the right trading platform for your needs is critical. Platforms with risk management tools are great for beginner traders while automation and advanced charting tools will be valued by advanced traders.
In this article we breakdown the best trading platform options based on your experience and trading style.
Platforms offered by traders can loosely be broken into two types: mainstream trading platforms and proprietary software. These platforms can be further classified as pure forex and CFD trading platforms, charting
platforms or social-copy platforms.
All these platforms offer distinctive benefits and will appeal to different types of traders.
To achieve the most profitable results when trading it is paramount to assess your investment goals, experience, and trading style as platforms offer vastly different tools and trading environments.
Mainstream Trading Platforms
Mainstream platforms are licenced to brokers under white label arrangements and made freely available to traders. The main advantage of mainstream platforms is that you can easily change from one broker to another that offers the same platform and not lose your existing trading data.
Additionally, most provide access to large trading communities and marketplaces where one can add extra features like analysis tools and automated trading bots. The trading tools provided by mainstream platforms are suitable for all levels of experience and most styles of trading.
MetaTrader 4 (MT4) Trading Platform
Offered by many top brokers and used by a large proportion of retail traders, MetaTrader 4 is without question the leading trading platform on the market. MT4 is ideal for people that need the most important trading features without the bells and whistles.
MetaTrader 4 offers a clean and uncluttered user-interface, which makes it well appreciated by beginner traders who may be overwhelmed with too much information. As well as being user-friendly, MT4 is hugely popular
- The platform provides access to all the essential charting tools required to make important trading decisions, including 3 chart types (line, bar chart, candlestick), 30 technical indicators, 24 analytical objects and 9 timeframes, allowing for deeper analysis of trading data.
- To manage the high risk of trading, 4 pending order types (buy limit, sell limit, buy stop and sell stop) are available in addition to market orders.
- Users can develop Expert Advisors (EAs or trading robots) to automate trading via algorithms. EAs can be written using the MQL4 programming language or downloaded online.
- World’s largest forex trading platform community. This allows advanced traders to access an infinite number of expert advisors for automation and signals for social traders to follow.
MetaTrader 4 is the safest choice you can make for a trading platform. Brokers that offer MetaTrader 4 are extensive but popular options include Pepperstone, IC Markets, FP Markets, ThinkMarkets, Oanda, Forex.com and City Index.
MetaTrader 5 (MT5) Trading Platform
In 2018, MetaQuotes announced the licensing and development of MetaTrader 4 would no longer continue. With MetaTrader 4 slowly being phased out, MetaTrader 5 (MT5) in time should become the premier mainstream trading platform.
MetaTrader 5 is an upgrade over MetaTrader 4. Unlike MT4, which is best for trading decentralised CFDs (i.e. forex), MT5 also enables trading of exchange-traded assets such as stocks. As well as more asset classes and CFDs available to trade, MT5 users can take full advantage of a greater
selection of technical analysis and automated trading tools:
- MT5 offers more inbuilt charting tools than its predecessor, with 4 chart
types, 21 timeframes, 38 technical indicators, 44 analytical tools and 2 extra pending order types available.
- Scalpers will appreciate the superior processing MetaTrader 5 offers. With 64-bit infrastructure, data processing is faster leading to quicker trading execution.
- EAs are written using the MQL5 programming language which is considered easier to use than MQL4.
- To optimise EAs before they are implemented, advanced traders using MT5 can enjoy multi-threaded, multi-currency backtesting features.
- If you are new to trading forex and choosing your first platform, it is recommended to pick MT5 over MT4. If you are already using MT4, there is no need to change unless you need particular features.
Brokers that provide MetaTrader 5 as a trading platform option include Pepperstone, IC Markets, FP Markets, XM, FxPro and Admiral Markets.
cTrader Trading Platform
cTrader is another popular mainstream trading platform option for trading decentralised financial instruments such as forex. The platform is said to be made by traders, for traders and has certain features that distinguish it from MetaTrader platforms. cTrader users can enjoy:
- A modern and sleek looking interface.
- 70 technical indicators, 54 timeframes and 4 chart types.
- Level II pricing (now available on MT5).
- Detachable charts.
- Fast-entry execution due to simultaneous order execution for both 32 and 64-bit processors.
- A greater range of order types.
Similarly to MetaTrader platforms, cTrader also offers automated trading tools suited to advanced traders. Those looking to write their own scripts (cBots) will appreciate that cTrader uses the C# programming language, which is more widely known and understood than MQL4 or MQL5.
As well as algorithmic trading using cBots, social trading strategies can be executed via cTrader Copy. However, not all cTrader brokers offer the platforms account mirroring services.
cTrader is not suitable for market maker style broker, it is a pure ECN platform that offers superior price transparency, quick product development and faster trade execution making it an ideal platform for scalpers and high volume traders.
Brokers that offer cTrader include Pepperstone, FxPro, IC Markets, OctaFX, RoboForex and Trader’s Way.
Some brokers offer their own, unique trading platform software. This allows brokers to give themselves a point of difference compared to
brokers offering mainstream platforms and provide features that might not be otherwise possible. Features brokers with proprietary platforms may offer include risk management, advanced charting, social trading.
The main concern with proprietary platforms is the difficulty in switching from one broker to another without losing data. Additionally, a significant restriction with proprietary platforms is that many lack automated trading tools. Compared to mainstream platforms, most proprietary platforms fail to provide algorithmic trading features (such as trading robots) or third-party social-copy trading tools.
Platforms with Risk Management Tools
One relatively common feature of proprietary platforms is the addition of extra risk management tools. While mainstream platforms offer essential risk management tools such as stop-loss, trailing-stops, take-profits, some brokers offer guaranteed stop-loss (GSLO) protection to customers using their proprietary platforms.
On top of premium order types, certain brokers create exclusive risk management tools such as dealCancellation and Freeze Rate with easyMarkets.
Brokers that offer risk management features through their own platforms include easyMarkets, xStation 5 (XTB), IG, Next Generation (CMC Markets) and Plus500.
Social-Copy Trading Platforms
Social-copy trading tools allow you to follow and copy the trading strategies of successful forex traders from around the world instead of developing and executing your own trades.
When choosing a social platform, you need to decide if you need a pure social trading platform or a third-party account mirroring services that integrate with a traditional trading platform. The other main consideration when choosing a social-copy platform is the size of the trading community, filtering features (to help you find traders to copy) and risk management tools.
If you are wanting to copy trade in a beginner-friendly environment pure social trading platforms are a great choice. Yet, it may be too restrictive if you require intermediate-advanced trading tools.
An example of a pure social trading platform and broker is eToro. Social trading platforms that integrate with a brokers infrastructure include ZuluTrade, DupliTrade, Mirror Trader, Pelican, Myfxbook, MetaTrader Signals.
Advanced Charting – Technical Analysis
Some trading platforms place their strength in the range of charting tools for analysis. Advanced traders will appreciate the in-depth analysis possible through platforms such as TradingView and Autochartist.
Third-party charting services such as TradingView provide more detailed financial market data and analysis. Using charting packages can help you more efficiently identify trading opportunities, with trend analysis, chart patterns and community discussions available. A range of brokers offers TradingView, including FXCM, Saxo Markets, OANDA and Forex.com.
Autochartist, available online or as a MetaTrader plug-in, is an automatic market scanner that can reduce the time you spend analysing markets. While many traders are required to pay a subscription to access Autochartist, certain brokers like Pepperstone, XTB, FP Markets and IG Markets offer free access to MetaTrader users.
Mobile Apps Trading
Generally, all proprietary and mainstream platforms offer mobile apps for iOS and Android devices. Mobile trading is growing quickly as many people prefer to conduct research and place trades while on the go. As well as the convenience, mobile apps allow you to constantly stay up to date with financial markets with inbuilt economic calendars, market news streams and alert features.
Most brokers offer a mobile solution but popular choices include:
- Mainstream platforms such as MetaTrader 4, MetaTrader 5 and cTrader offer trading apps that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store for Android mobiles and tablets and Apple’s app store for iOS iPhones and iPads.
- Popular proprietary mobile trading apps include ThinkTrader (ThinkMarkets), ThinkOrSwim (TD-AmeriTrade), AvaGo (AvaTrade) and Next Generation (CMC Markets).
Summary: How To Choose a Trading Platform
Whether you are using automated trading strategies, wanting advanced charting tools, or looking to start copy trading, it is worth exploring demo accounts to determine the right platform for you. Demo accounts come with virtual trading balances, allowing you to practice trading in real-time conditions while getting to know the platforms’ tools and features so you can make informed trading decisions.
While choosing the right platform that suits your experience and trading style is important, it is vital to understand the pricing and services offered by your broker. Spreads, regulations, customer support, and educational resources vary between brokers and so it essential you ensure they meet your needs..
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