Picking the correct trading software is a very important process in developing as a trader. You will learn about three different software packages and things to consider when looking for the one that best suits you and your trading style. It is imperative to know exactly what your needs are; otherwise, you can waste considerable time and money.
What do you need the software to do?
Picking a trading software is like choosing a car--no single package is going to be just right for everyone. The first question you want to ask yourself is what you want to do with the software.
If your desire is to develop and back test a trading system, then one inexpensive and powerful tool is called AmiBroker. As of January 2009, it cost GBP £129, making it one of the least expensive tools on the market. However, it has some very powerful features that allow you to back test your trading theories and develop your own indicators. Be warned that it is not the easiest software in the world to use and it will require a bit of a learning curve, but it is a great value. Many other comparable tools sell for thousands of dollars.
If you would like a software for charting that comes with a trading system already developed, then MarketClub for Smart Traders might be for you. This tool gives you buy-and-sell signals based off of a mechanical trend trading system for stocks, forex and futures. The buy-and-sell signals are labelled right on the charts using what is called trade triangles. Furthermore, it comes with 15 of the most commonly used technical indicators, such as MACD, stochastics and RSI. It also has a number of other useful features, including trade school, which gives you audio lessons from some of the world's top traders. Then there's the smart scan that gives you a selection of stocks based off of their trend ratings and trade alerts, which alerts you when there is a new signal for whatever market you are trading. As of January 2009, it cost £291 a year, so it's also good value for money.
Finally, if you'd like to both back test your systems as well as be able to completely automate your trading, then TradeStation is probably what you are after. This is one of the most powerful tools on the market. Using a simple language, you can create your own indicators using the ones that come with TradeStation or using systems developed by third-party vendors. Just like Amibroker you can back test your ideas about the market, and you can also trade your ideas in real time through a simulator. Furthermore, you can completely automate your system with rules-based trading and have the software execute your trades even when you are away from the computer. As of January 2009, it cost £64 a month with a trading account or £194 without one. So it is not the cheapest package available, but with all of its features TradeStation is truly one of the most robust trading platforms on the market today.
A Personal Choice
Again, trading software is a very personal choice and one product is not going to be right for everyone. Most of them come with a one-month free trial or a money-back guarantee. In the end, finding just the right solution may--like a car--require a lot of test drives before you can find just the right one.