From the August 01, 2007 issue of Futures Magazine • Subscribe!

Choosing a trading software

It probably wouldn’t be wise to just pick a trading software or platform out of a hat when you’re starting out. There are too many to choose from, with many differences and similarities and pricing packages. Most offer all the essentials, and many offer advanced features for a cost you may not want to invest in just yet. The key is to pick one you’ll feel comfortable with — the one you find easiest to use, because you won’t want to be bogged down by complicated features when all you want to do is find your market of choice on a chart and be able to place a trade.

As with most software, the company will offer different price packages the range from the less expensive basic functionality to the more expensive advanced functionality ones. Here, we cover the basics and a few advanced features to familiarize you with the overall functionality of each software, so not everything discussed is part of the basic package. You will have to visit each software’s individual Web site to see all of the features included with each package. Now let’s look at a few.

ESignal

eSignal is one of the better known broker-neutral software applications in the trading industry, having been around for more than 20 years, specializing in the delivery of real-time market information and the development of advanced trading workstations.

eSignal offers equities, options, futures and index data directly from global exchanges with tick and historical data, forex and fixed income pricing and back testing and strategy analysis, and you can pick from direct access brokers with integrated trading and compatible third-party software. Reliable data is definitely one thing you will want to look for in a software, as well as speed, if you will be using it to execute trades.

The software provides a wide range of tools, which includes market quotes for stocks, options and futures, charts, news, research, alerts, back testing, a formula engine for developing chart studies and integrated trading with a choice of direct access brokerages. Also, the product offers a full line of add-on products, including popular technical analysis studies.

Institutional and professional traders can use either eSignal or eSignal Pro, which is designed for the professional trader. eSignal Pro is a market data solution that offers more features than eSignal for small to mid-size institutional investors.

eSignal’s QuoTrek offers global, real-time quotes, charts and news to a software application that users can download to their wireless, Internet-ready PDAs, such as Palm, Pocket PC, BlackBerry and smart phones.

eSignal’s display features alerts, pop-out windows, a detail window and a summary window, symbol search, ticker windows, keyboard shortcuts and time alerts.

Charting features for eSignal include free indicators, technical analysis, basic and advanced charting, Bollinger bands, day-trading action study, drawing tools, price gauge and many others. Charts can be set to daily, weekly and monthly intervals and can be viewed in multiple formats. You also can back test with advanced strategy and trade analysis. The company’s Web site has a complete list of features.

Education is key to being successful with your first trading software. “We have an extensive support site which can be accessed directly from within the application, which includes a knowledge base and training videos. There is also a large user community where fellow eSignal users can communicate with each other and ask questions, while they’re learning to use the application and learning to trade,” says Jay Frank, product manager at eSignal.

Today most trading softwares and platforms have entire sections of their Web sites dedicated to educating traders with Webinars and demos of how to use their product and it’s free.

REALTICK

Another well-known software offered by many brokers is RealTick, by Townsend Analytics, which has been around since the mid-1980s. It offers many tools for individual traders, is fully customizable and has tens of thousands of users in 94 countries and territories.

With RealTick you can enter your orders through RealTick’s order entry window and trade with one of several brokers across multiple asset classes and regions. Also, you can create an unlimited number of individualized pages with more than 25 windows designed to show complete information on all financial instruments. Using TAL Data, RealTick lets you track over-the-counter stocks, listed stocks, futures, options, indices and currencies on North American, European and Asia Pacific Exchanges.

Market analysis and order entry are integrated in RealTick. You can click on a Level II quote to enter the symbol and price for an order, link order entry enabled windows to charts and quote screens for instant symbol changes.

When it comes to charting, you can design charts by trades or by time interval in minutes (including overnight charts), days, weeks, months or years. Also, you can instantly change the interval or scale for any chart using shortcut keys. Charts can be enhanced with trendlines, annotations and technical analysis studies, such as moving averages, MACD, Bollinger bands and many others.

RealTick is a platform beginning traders can grow with. “Realtick’s customizable interface enables the most basic page setups (single window display of quotes, charts and basic order types), but as users become more advanced they can easily grow with and configure multi-monitor setups of the system to access the most advanced features,” says Mike Felix, director of global marketing at Townsend Analytics.

NINJATRADER

The first version of NinjaTrader was launched in 2003 and it quickly became popular among traders as an advanced third-party order entry front end. Since then, the product has evolved into a complete end-to-end trading platform for both discretionary and automated systems traders for futures, forex and equities, and it is supported by brokerages worldwide.

Some of NinjaTrader’s charting features include flexible chart styles and intervals, candlestick, OHLC, tick, more than 100 technical indicators, drawing tools and broad brokerage and market data feed support. NinjaTrader comes with advanced charting including the ability to enter orders and manage trades directly from a chart. NinjaTrader also offers automated strategy development and backtesting.

“[What] sets NinjaTrader apart is that it does not have complex product packaging options. The NinjaTrader platform and all of its basic and advanced functionality is completely free to use. We only charge a fee when a trader executes trades; then traders pay little as $50 per month,” says Raymond Deux, president and CEO of NinjaTrader.

METASTOCK

MetaStock 10 is designed for traders who do their analysis after the markets close and is for both experienced and beginning traders. MetaStock, which has been around since 1985, comes with many out-of-the box trading solutions. Also available are charting, technical analysis and third-party products.

Whether you trade stocks, bonds, mutual funds, futures or forex, MetaStock has a real-time suite of products designed for real-time traders who trade with intra-day data. MetaStock Pro is a technical analysis and charting software product for real-time traders. MetaStock Pro FX is the foreign exchange software product. This product is like MetaStock Pro, but has a slightly reduced feature set and price. The symbol database only has the forex pairs.

UNFAIR ADVANTAGE

Unfair Advantage (UA) is put out by CSI, which is known for its market data, and it offers more than just data. CSI’s UA is a trading and charting software for all kinds of users. CSI provides updates on thousands of time series, which are supplied by modem through the Internet, your browser or long distance at the close of each business day. Individual users can view substantial historical time series on world markets that extend backward to the middle of the 20th century.

CSI’s historical coverage includes all commodity markets gathered from over 80 futures exchanges traded worldwide. More than 99% of the markets in CSI’s inventory extend from the very first day of trading. The breadth of futures information includes, grains, currencies, world stock indices, metals, mercantiles, financials, energy and more.

CSI also supplies daily summary data on all New York Stock Exchange listed stocks, nearly all Nasdaq stocks, and virtually all 25,000 U.S. mutual funds. U.S. government series are supplied on CPI, PPI, unemployment, the national debt, M1, M2, M3, etc., and updated daily as such information is released.

Charting with UA is arranged to assist the trader in comparing one market with another and lets you simultaneously display studies superimposed over the data. The bar frequency of any given time series can range from daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly to annually. UA’s lineup of standard study tools currently includes candlestick charts, MACD, moving average crossovers and Wilder’s Relative Strength Index.

UA displays charts in any currency. Because UA can process market data from more than 80 international futures exchanges that involve multiple currencies; it often becomes necessary to view multi-national products in regional terms. Also, you can display charts by contract value.

CQG

CQG’s latest version, 7.5, which will be released soon, offers order routing support for options and has added features in its TradeFlow charting system.

CQG Trader is a quote and trading platform that provides DOMTrader and Quote Board. CQG provides 14 different types of charts with flexible time and price scaling, has more than 90 studies and indicators and provides access to a number of third-party services.

CQG’s DOMTrader, a depth-of-market trading order execution interface, provides transparency beyond the best bid and offer. Traders have order entry and cancel buttons for quick management of trades.

CQG provides data from more than 90 exchanges worldwide and continues to expand that coverage. Its high-speed data feed supplies real-time data and access to very accurate historical data.

CQG provides order routing ability for futures, options on futures, indices, Treasuries and exchange traded spreads. With version 7.3 and higher, traders can use alerts to trigger automatic trades. Traders can execute orders through CQG’s two electronic trading platforms, CQG Integrated Client and CQG Trader. Also, CQG doesn’t charge for order routing.

Whatever combination you’re looking for in a trading platform or software, there’s bound to be someone who offers it — you just have to find it.

In the next part of this series we will focus on more advanced features of some of these and other software applications.

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