Your trading platform is a vital tool. No matter which assets you are trading, or your level of experience, you should always carry out a trading platform comparison to find one that is right for you.
Always bear in mind that some of the best trading platforms may not be ideally suited to your style of trading, or indeed your level of technological expertise. Using a trading platform online means you will be spending a lot of time working on it. You need to feel confident in its functionality and above all, enjoy using it.
We often hear stories from traders who are completely confused by the trading platform comparison process. For example, if you search ‘trading platforms UK’ you will be presented with a list of brokers rather than a trading platform review list. Trading is a confusing subject and if you are new to it, then our guide to the best broker for beginners UK is a must-read for you.
This leaves you with two choices, sift through a list of brokers one by one and establish which platforms they have on offer, or abandon the task altogether. Neither of those options is ideal and that is why we have created this guide to trading platforms online.
So how exactly do you choose the best trading platform? In reality, there are a number of questions you need to ask yourself before you make that decision:
The list is far from exhaustive, but those answers will hopefully narrow down the options for you.
In this section we will give you an overview of some of the more widely-available generic platforms you are likely to encounter, as well as taking a brief look at some of the less mainstream options.
The cTrader platform is the creation of Spotware, a Cypriot software development company which specialises in trading platforms online. Since it was first released in 2010, cTrader has earned a reputation for being easy to use and having many extra features included as standard.
The cTrader is available in almost any format you want; you can install it on your PC or Mac, use it in a browser-based format, or download native apps for Android and iOS devices. It is best-suited to Forex and CFD traders. Spotware also provides a free demo version of its platform, which you can access in all formats from the company’s website.
Two platforms you are almost certain to encounter are the Metaquotes-developed MT4 and MT5. The MT4 was first released in 1998 specifically for retail trading of Forex. Since the first release it has enjoyed continuous further development and still holds its place as the most popular platform in the Forex marketplace.
The MT5 was released much later, in 2010 to fulfil the needs of traders who wanted to add more functionality and to invest in other financial assets. MT5 has never enjoyed quite the same success as MT4, but you will find that it is often offered by brokers who have a number of platforms to select from.
Some online brokers opt for developing a generic platform and making it unique to their operation by integrating additional software. MT4 and MT5 are often adapted in this way so that a broker can provide its retail trading clients with a unique trading platform online without the massive investment that would be needed to develop a custom platform.
There is a gradually increasing trend for brokers to develop and present their own unique trading platform. Some brokers only offer their bespoke version, whilst others may offer it alongside a selection of generic platforms. Invariably these bespoke platforms offer considerably more functionality to traders, but they are not always cost-free and there can also be quite a steep learning curve. Whether they are the best trading platforms is a matter of personal choice.
Over the last few years, using a trading platform online has changed. More online trading now takes place from mobile devices than from traditional PCs or Macs and almost every broker now has some form of mobile accessibility available to clients. There are a handful of brokers who only offer a mobile-optimised website version of their platform, but the majority now have developed native apps for iOS and Android devices.
A word of warning! When you look for a trading platform online, or in an app store, you may come across ‘standalone’ trading apps. Often, these platforms are highly suspect, with little or no security and in the worst case scenario, a scam.
We strongly advise you to only download apps that are available from the website of a reputable developer such as Metaquotes, or by using links obtained from a licensed broker’s website.
Whether you are completely new to the world of trading, or just eager to explore new trading assets and platforms, then the availability of free, unlimited demo platforms direct from the software developers themselves is an opportunity that is just too good to miss. They provide the ideal environment to gain experience and try out a variety of trading strategies.
The cTrader, MT4 and MT5 platforms are all available in demo versions which you can access directly from their respective developer’s websites in the format of your choice.
The biggest advantage of using a developer’s simulation is that there is no pressure to sign up for a live trading account, it is free of charge and there is no time limit applied.
As well as finding your way around these platforms, you can also try out a whole variety of complementary add-on software including EA and advanced analysis products.
Next, we will move on to the demo platforms which almost every online broker offers to prospective clients. You will find that there is quite a variation in the way different brokers approach this.
We have come across a few brokers who allow you to access their platform and try it out on the website without providing any personal information. The downside is that you cannot save your virtual trading history, which is always handy for future reference.
Others require only minimal information, usually a name and email address, after which you can use your chosen platform freely. It has to be said that some will send you multiple emails ‘encouraging’ you to start trading with a live account, but that is not always the case.
Make the most of this type of opportunity by retaining your trading history and using it to develop your skills.
Whether you decide to opt for a basic free simulation or a time-limited trial of a more realistic nature, make sure that you make the most of it. Firstly, use it to trade as if it were your own money that is being invested. Secondly, keep a record of your successes and failures so that you can increase the former and find ways to reduce the latter.
Demo platforms and accounts is a subject we cover in all of our broker reviews and comparisons, so it is certainly worth taking a look there for information relating to a specific broker and the platform(s) it has available.
Just as it says on the tin, you can make use of this type of demo account, complete with virtual funds, for as long as you want. However, some demo platforms do not include all of the broker’s assets, do not operate in real-time and may not accurately depict the asset market.
That is the worst case scenario, but they certainly still have their uses and every one you try out will give you a better idea of what works for you as a trader. When you are ready to move on to ‘real’ trading, some brokers will allow you to retain your simulation alongside a live account, which is ideal for testing extra software and trying out different assets or more trading strategies.
It is mostly the brokers who offer high-spec bespoke platforms that enforce a trial period, which is usually between 30 and 90 days. Once that period expires, you must either move on to ‘real’ trading, or pay a subscription to continue using the platform.
This type of simulation is usually full-featured and operates in exactly the same way as a live version would. The only small negative with bespoke platforms is that learning to use the software could take up a good portion of your allotted demo period. If you opt for this type of trial, always try to time it so that you get as much use out of it as possible.
There are certain things to look out for if you intend to carry out the majority of your trading from a mobile device. Some brokers unfortunately tend to concentrate more on their websites than on applying the same principles to their mobile offering.
With modern smartphones or tablets and a half-decent internet connection, it is possible to access any website for which you have the URL. However, in that context, your browsing is best confined to a ‘look, but don’t touch’ approach.
Unless you have a particular level of knowledge about Internet security protocols, then stick to just browsing. The reason we say that is because any situation where you intend sharing personal data or financial details must be secured in certain ways.
A standard website that you are accessing from a mobile device does NOT enjoy the correct level of security. As a minimum, a mobile-optimised website is acceptable, but for any serious business you intend on doing, a dedicated (preferably ‘native’) app is the way forward.
One way of assessing availability is whether the platform is suitable for a specific asset, as in a platform developed for Forex would not be suited to other financial instruments. If you need more information on how to buy stocks specifically, or any other asset we have plenty of helpful guides.
The ‘availability’ of a platform also refers to its continuity of service to clients. A broker that has frequent server downtime might not have much impact on a long-term stocks investor, but for an active day trader, even a few minutes could wipe out their profit for the day.
For those of you using mobile devices, it is essential that you have access to a robust Wi-Fi connection or a reliable 4G/5G network connection. You also need to check that your device will support the broker’s app satisfactorily.
As we have already explained, some platforms are specific to certain assets, the best dividend stocks is just one example. If you only intend to trade in Forex currency pairs, then the MetaTrader MT4 is more than adequate. However, if you decide to diversify into other financial markets, you will have to run a second platform alongside (assuming your broker permits you to) or opt for a multi-asset platform. If cryptocurrencies are your specific interest, then please read our crypto trading guide for vital information.
There is one more point about assets that is pertinent to those of you who intend to trade mostly from a mobile device. Not all mobile apps enjoy the same range of assets as those available when you use the broker’s main platform. If you trade largely mainstream assets, this is not likely to be a problem, but if you delve into more niche markets then it is more of an issue.
As a trader, you will effectively be spending a large portion of your day using a single, vital piece of software, so it has to be the right one. We hope you have found our trading platform comparison guide valuable and that you get a chance to peruse our other trading guides as well; the more you can learn about trading the better.
As you have seen whilst reading through our guide, there are a lot of considerations when choosing a trading platform online, not least of which is a personal preference. After all, you are far more likely to become a successful trader if you are able to enjoy your working environment.
There are many factors that make a good trading platform, but the best trading platform is the one that fulfils your needs and that you feel comfortable using. Our trading platform comparison guide will show you how to find it. You can find the trading guide here at Tradersbest.com.
There is no denying that some simulation platforms are better than others. However, having the use of a demo platform is advantageous to every type and level of trader. This question, along with many others, is addressed in our comprehensive guide to finding the best trading platforms. Read our broker comparison and trading platforms list now at Tradersbest.com.
Although the MetaTrader MT4 was first released over 20 years ago, it is far from being past its best. We have a section in our trading platform comparison guide dedicated to both MetaTrader platforms, as well as many others. Check out our trading strategies and trading platform reviews at Tradersbest.com for more details.
Trading financial products carries a high risk to your capital, especially trading leverage products such as CFDs. CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. Between 74-89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
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