Online trading platforms are the main way that traders interact with Forex Brokers these days. Far from being a rudimentary communication tool, trading platforms can help you analyze the market, keep up - to-date with Forex events and even gauge investor sentiment, to name just a few among a huge variety of fecommatures.
A platform for any trader
Every online Forex Broker today offers a Forex trading platform. Some brokers design their own platforms to fit a niche clientele, some offer popular platforms developed by 3rd parties, and some offer multiple platforms for traders to choose from.
Trading platforms come in so many shapes and sizes that no matter your trading style and - no matter your level of experience, there is probably a platform that is just right for you. The trouble is finding that platform, especially one that’s operated by a broker you prefer. However, by knowing what you’re looking for, you can learn to narfxl-row your search according to specific criteria and focusing on particular features.
It’s all about the interface
While many platforms offer similar features, what makes platforms really stand apart from each other is the element of user interface design.
Two platforms can have an identical set of trading tools, yet one will present them in an interface that looks cluttered and makes it impossible to find the tool you need exactly when you need it, while the other will have the tools right at your fingertips, making your trading experience seamless.
This is why it is very important to actually test out a platform yourself before committing to any Forex brokers. A bulleted list of bells and whistles is all fine and good, but if you have trouble finding or using these bells and whistles, then you might as well go for a platform which has less features, but a more intuitive interface design.
Charting your course
Charting software is among the basic features offered by pretty much every Forex trading platform, and for good reason: they are the essential tool used to analyze the market and predict future price movements.
However, not all charts are created equal. Some platforms offer only the most basic line charts with limited analytical capabilities, while others have a charting suite complete with 30 time frames, 200 overlay indicators and a set of drawing tools comparable to Photoshop.
Again, when picking a platform based on charts it’s more a question of finding what you personally need, rather than going for the platform with the most comprehensive charting software. Most traders work with just a few basic studies that they’re familiar with (Fibonacci, Stochastic Oscilator, MACD and RSI) so getting the software with the most indicators shouldn’t be a priority.
Handy drawing tools, on the other hand, are essential if you really wish to hone in on price trends... and so it’s better to focus on finding charts with a good graphics suite than one with triple digits indicators.
Gimme the news!
Streaming news is another pretty popular feature that almost all major investment platforms have. World events have a huge impact on Forex and it’s a good idea to keep up with what’s happening unless you want to be caught unaware when a major currency selloff comes along.
Some Forex brokers subscribe to a news service that brings you the latest headlines, others take it upon themselves to keep you up-to-date with the latest in the financial markets. Whatever the case, make sure that the platform you choose updates its news feed frequently. There is so much happening in the markets at all times that a news item every hour is the minimum you should look for.
Another thing to check is whether the platform is bringing you just the headlines or whether you can click through to more detailed content pertaining to the event.
The Forex race has led to many advantages for investors, and, constant innovation in the field of trading tools. Brokers and software developers are constantly trying to invent the new tool that will give them the edge over the competition, and you as a client get to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Here’s an overview of a selected few:
Price Rate Alarms – a simple tool that enables you to set alarms that will notify you (thorugh an audio signal, mobile ping, or even an email sent to your inbox) when the price of an instrument reaches a certain rate of your choosing. As simple as it is essential, especially for those proficient in technical analysis.
Economic Calendar - in addition to streaming news, some brokers provide a Forex calendar that lists all the upcoming economic data releases for the week. It’s important to know when these will happen and to prepare for the level of activity that can be expected for the currency pair in question around the release so you don’t get caught up in market volatility unexpectedly.
One Click Trading – an essential tool for scalpers and day traders, this feature enables you to set your default trade preferences and then open trades with just one click on the “Buy” or “Sell” button for the instrument of your choice. While it’s a must for those who make mainly short term trades, novices are advised to stay away, unless they want to pay spreads for a bunch of unwanted trades.
Chat and Social – many Forex brokers are currently trying to break into the world of social media by providing either a chat service to go with their platform, or an entire social network where you can share trades and other info as you trade. While it’s mostly non –essential, it can be a pretty pleasant way to break up the monotony of staring at charts.
Investor sentiment – taking the cfxl-rowdsourcing approach, some brokers have developed cfxl-rowd-opinion based tools to measure investor sentiment, an important factor in making trading decisions. These types of tools basically aggregate the positions of all the broker’s clients to tell you at what percentage they are selling/buying a particular instrument. While it seems like a great addition to your arsenal, be careful with investor sentiment as it may be misleading. Many times investors get stuck in positions that they are dying to unload, and so while it seems like they’re all about selling, they might be just waiting around for the trend to turn so they can minimize losses.
Depth of Market (DoM) – A feature provided exclusively by ECN brokers, this is a measure of the number of open buy and sell positions for a currency pair at different prices, which indicates the liquidity for that instrument. While this data is available for a fee from most Forex exchanges, many Forex brokers now provide it for free. Like the investor sentiment tool, this measure too can be deceptive, but for those looking to avoid excess volatility it can be a crucial indicator for when to stay out of the market.
Novice vs. Pro – Features to look for in a platform [AT3]
|Simple interface design||Comprehensive charting suite|
|Economic calendar||Economic calendar|
|Chat and social||One Click Trading|
|Simple charts||Price rate alarms|
Mobile platforms haven’t been around that long but they have already become the main trading medium for many traders. While it’s probable that you won’t use your broker’s mobile platform as much as the main software, it’s definitely a must for those times when you just have to access your portfolio on the go.
Most mobile trading platforms are simplified versions of their web-based or downloadable client counterparts, however you must make sure that it still has the essentials: live price rates, charts, the ability to open new positions and the ability to edit open orders and positions. Everything beyond that is a bonus.
Last but not least, remember that most brokers offer their mobile trading apps for free, so do not accept any publisher who tries to sell you a mobile trading app for any cost above zero.
For a comprehensive comparison between the different platforms offered by different brokers, visit this page.
If you’re not familiar with any trading platforms as of yet, start out by testing some of the major names in the platform game with brokers that offer demo accounts.
A few standouts to try include: MetaTrader, Ninja Trader, MetaStock, TradeStation and cTrader. Having a go at these will help you figure out what you want and don’t want in a trading platform.
Desktop vs. Web based vs. Mobile
With the invention of new software environments, trading platforms have had to adapt and branch out into new mediums.
Desktop – while these platforms are as functional as their web based counterparts, it’s just not convenient to have to download a client every time you switch computers
Web based – combining flexibility with comprehensiveness, the web based platform is our vote for the best trading environment.
Mobile – while indispensible on some occasions, mobile platforms generally don’t offer as many features as web based platforms.