I have used 4 platforms in my 5+ trading year career. I want to describe a few pros and cons of all of them and hopefully you can find the one that is right for you. The four that I have used and in this order
- Ninjatrader 7
I first used Scottrade because I saw their commercials on tv. I had never heard of the other 3 on my list at this point and the only competition for Scottrade at this point in time was the other TV advertisers like E*TRADE, Schwab, eSignal, and I am probably missing a few other big ones. I chose Scottrade because it had the lowest commission and if you fund (at least at the time) with over $25,000 you got free access to their PRO platform. This pro platform was half the allure as it had all the bells and whistle I could dream of as I thought I needed tons of flashing lights to trade successfully at this time and wanted 6 screens and the typical “day trader” set up. The cons are that I realized I did not need all these flashing lights and the commissions of $7 (have not checked if still) were not actually the cheapest I could get. They were just the cheapest of the brokers I knew of.
My first introduction to ThinkOrSwim was when I found a few trading gurus and indicator vendors. They used ToS and had custom indicators only available on ToS and I thought well the reason I suck is because I don’t have their magical indicator. I should move accounts and use that and be rich. This is not necessarily about ToS but definitely the wrong reason to change platforms (for indicators). ThinkOrSwim was actually great for me at the time. I was able to set up watchlists very quickly and do advanced options analysis (look at payoff profiles for complex strategies in real-time). The commission on stock shares was not better than Scottrade but the options pricing and tools were well worth the switch.
Ninjatrader 7 (and 8)
I eventually got burnt with options bad as I realized I was not playing in the same universe as the smart players that understand the greeks. I slowly became obsessed with quantitative analysis as I realized ‘quants’ were who I was losing all my option monies to. This lead me down the system trading path where I stumbled upon Ninjatrader which was a free platform that had free end of day data which was great intro to get used to the software & platform. I was able to play around and licensed some indicators for the platform and moved my approach away from options back toward stocks and futures. The commission is based on the broker so that did not change as I kept my previous and linked it through Ninjatrader. I realized myself slipping back down the ‘holy grail indicator’ hole and realized I needed to test all these indicators I was licensing. I then realized that Ninjascript, Ninjatrader’s proprietary language, is basically C# which is not an easy language to learn let me tell you. I had a very difficult time testing simple ideas and was searching for easier solutions.
A simpler programming language was the main pull away from Ninjatrader to Tradestation. Easy Language is much simpler than C# and I was able to pick it up much more quickly than I expected. I actually started to read their documentation before moving my account as the last two changes happened in a relatively quick period as my development and understanding seemed to be on an exponential curve. Tradestation has beautiful charts, very fast, watchlists, and a simple to learn programming language to test ideas. The commissions were actually much cheaper than the first two listed as well. This really makes it a no brainer and I am still using Tradestation to date.
Disclosure: I am not an affiliate for any of them but am willing to be 🙂