Trading Tools that Help
If you are going to trade stocks and options successfully you are going to have to have some charting software. While most brokerage firms offer their tools, which may include charting software, I personally haven't seen too many that I am impressed with.
Having said that I will give a plug for Think or Swim's trading platform. I do like their charting software, however their platform is not what I call user friendly. You will have to learn how to use their program to get the benefits of it. In order to illustrate the complexity of their system consider the face that there is an individual who has a business teaching people how to use their platform. It cost around $100 for several weeks of webinars. Their charting tools are free which makes the price right.
Let me say that I have not personally used every brokerage firm out their so realize that there may be other brokers who have nice charts, your taste may be different then mine, but of the ones I have used Think or Swim is the only one that I have been impressed with. Also remember that if you can use your brokerages charting tools you will save a lot of money.
In this Hub I want to review two charting tools that I have found to be very useful. In fact, I go back and forth in my opinion of which one is better. So let's take a look!
MachTrader (formerly known as Edutrader) is a pretty versatile charting platform that comes with streaming price data. As with many high functioning platforms there are probably more features then what you will ever use, but having said that it has some very useful tools.
I am not going to attempt to go through all of its features, but will talk about what I liked and dislike about the system. As with many programs it comes with different levels of functionality. Each higher level of function comes with a higher monthly fee, but with it you get some cool tools also.
One of the best features, in my opinion, is how easy MachTrader is to use. I found it very simple to learn and very functional. It is VERY easily customizable with a lot of different studies. Therefore, you can set your charts up just the way you like them.
Another cool feature is that changes automatically save. When you draw a trendline it stays there until you delete it. So you can set up the chart the way you like it so that the next time you take a look at this particular symbol it is just as you had it before.
Another think I liked about this program was the ability to set your home page in various ways. You can have half the screen the chart and the other half your watch list, scan details, or a host of other things. There is really a lot of versatility in this.
The ability to scan for what you are looking for is one of the best features in my opinion. I really liked how this worked and the results that were displayed. It is also very easy to get a lot of fundamental information about the underlying symbol that you are looking for.
The risk graph was also another very cool feature. In my opinion it is the easiest risk graph that I have every used. But having said that the risk graph also brings me into the things that I don't like about MachTrader. There were many times that when entering data into the risk graph that it would just default back to all zero's. I have a trading partner who still uses MachTrader and this still seems to be an ongoing problem. When it is working properly it is an awesome tool, when it is zeroing out it is very frustrating.
the other things I didn't like about it was the fact that you can't print directly from MachTrader. In order to print you have to copy the screen and paste it into Paint then print or send it. This was an annoying feature to me. In addition, you can't write on your charts. For me, I like to make notes about what I am thinking and this was not possible in this system.
Ultimately what got me to cancel my subscription was the $100+ monthly price tag. I'm cheap when it comes to this type of stuff and I just thought this was way too much. While there is a part of me that continually debates about going back, the price tag is what has kept me from it. If you want to check out the detailed features of this powerful system you can visit their website by going to: http://www.machtradersoftware.com
When I left MachTrader I went to Stockcharts.com. We will look at it next.
When I left MachTrader I went to Stockcharts.com for the main purpose of the price. I knew another trader who used this service and I had viewed this system over a period of time and thought that it might be a good alternative.
The price tag is about 1/3 the monthly cost of MachTrader, but you also don't have streaming data. The best you can do with stockcharts is have your charts refresh every 5 seconds. While this is sufficient for me it is annoying at times. It is supposed to auto refresh but if you are working on something else you may have to click the "update" button when you return to look at your chart.
Stockcharts is not a hard system to learn, but it is not as easy as MachTrader. There are a few features that it would have taken me awhile to figure it out if I hadn't had the friend who had been using it who guided me through the difficult parts.
Stockcharts is very easy to create lists and save symbols in them. This makes it nice to identify the charts you look at. For example you can set up lists called, "Pending Orders, Open orders, ETF's, Gold Stocks, etc." Within each of these lists you are able to probably more charts then you would ever need to. This is a nice feature that helps keep your charts organized.
While writing on your charts has much more versatility then MachTrader, the downside is that you don't put your trendlines, support, resistance notes directly on the chart. You have to click an annotate button which opens the chart in a formatting version where you can do a lot of things to your chart and then you save it. The negative to this is that it takes much longer, but it also gives you a lot of abilities that MachTrader didn't give you.
You can also send your charts by email with the click of a button as well as creating a linkable version of the chart. These are nice features that I have used a lot.
There are a lot more studies that can be used with stockcharts over Machtrader. To get all the studies in Stockcharts functioning in Machtrader you would probably have to subscribe to the highest service.
I do not like the stock scanning features of stockcharts. While they are very customizable they are nowhere close to the search features of MachTrader. In Stockcharts once you get your list of symbols from the scan it is a timely process to go through them as compared with MachTrader.
As stated before I started off using MachTrader, but I presently subscribe to Stockcharts. However, as I wrote this and thought about the features that I used the most I have come to the conclusion that when weighted in the balance I like the features of MachTrader the best.
However, we then have to deal with the price. As I said, I use stockcharts. Even though I like MachTrader better I don't feel it is worth the extra cost so I will probably stick with stockcharts.
There are a lot of programs out there and I guess the key is to look around, try them out, and see which one you like the best. I've tried to give a fair view of these two and hope that it will help you in your charting decisions.