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MetaTrader and TradeStation for Autotrading

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From all the back-testing software I’ve had chance to look at there are only two contesters for the 1st prize — TradeStation and MetaTrader.

Both have evolved as automated trading platforms. Both were somewhat inadequate at the very beginning. Online trading technology has progressed exponentially in the last decade. I remember placing the first trades online through Lynd-Waldock account — it was a big convenience for me as I didn’t enjoy the chore of calling the broker on the phone. At about the same time I started to use TradeStation 2000i and some software version from the same company (Omega Research, later Tradestation Securities) — for both versions I spent a couple of thousand dollars as far as I can remember.  Incidentally, made more than that from one trade with the vendor’s stock during internet stock boom.

Soon Tradestation changed its business model to platform subscriptions, introduced online trading functionality and started to offer brokerage services (in fact, mostly in capacity of introducing broker).  The first autotrading experience on Tradestation was with mixed emotions — too often I had to adjust positions manually and the platform rather than internet connection was to blame. However, Tradestation got is straight fairly soon and the last time I used the platform (Y2007, I guess), it worked just seemlessly. Nevertherless, I haven’t used it since and unlikely will use it again.

The reason? There several reasons: EasyLanguage, competition and evolution of programming. EasyLanguage was a great concept — it allowed to write trading systems in almost plain English with very few hard programming rules to follow. The problem is that EasyLanguage you can use only on Tradestation and it is somewhat limited in comparision to general programming languages. Competition has evolved and probably surpassed Tradestation Securities as once near-monopoly autotrading platform provider. Today every major broker supports autotrading by providing it’s own trading platform or by ensuring direct access interface.  Regular programming languages have become more easy to use and more traders have acquired coding skills in languages like C, Java or C#.  Besides, code written in regular programming language can be used with various brokers and platforms or integrated with other systems while EasyLanguage is restricted to one broker, one platform and is not directly compatible with anything else.

MetaTrader 4 platform has gained popularity over the years. It lacks the polish of Tradestation, support documentation is somewhat clumsy, but it is free to end-user (vs $250/mo for Tradestation), adopted by many brokerage companies (vs 1 for TS), programming is in MQL4 language which is similar to C programming language.  Meta Trader 5 will scale up the looks, ease of use and, more importantly, add some adequate trade execution  commands with MQL5.

I’m currently do my system coding work on MetaTrader. The next step (5 years from now?)  is likely to be that all the sytem coding and back-testing work will be done directly in a language like Java or F#, then directly plugged into broker system with no need for intermediary platform like MetaTrader or TradeStation.  And code in mql4 (or mql5) will be easier to translated into, say Java, than EasyLanguage …

Tradestation is developed by a Tradestation Securities in Florida, United States. MetaTrader is a product of Meta Qoutes Software, apparently a Russian company with offices in several countries.


Written by A.S.

October 26, 2009 at 11:00 pm

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