A trading platform is what gives us the capability to open, manage, and close trades on the Forex market, which makes it the single most important piece of software for Forex traders. This is especially true for short-term traders, who rely heavily on technical trading rules and spend hours in front of their trading platforms. In fact, the trading platform you choose can have a significant effect on your trading performance based on the tools it brings on board and its overall stability and reliability.
In this article, we’ll provide a list of the top Forex trading platforms and highlight their main advantages and disadvantages. We’ve also researched the best online Forex trading websites to answer the most interesting question for many of you, “What is the best platform to trade Forex?”
Features of the best Forex trading platform
Let’s first cover what the best Forex trading platform should offer. In order to be labelled as the best Forex platform, it needs to have all of the following features:
- Real-time price quotes – While this is not directly linked to the trading platform itself but to the broker that provides the quotes, it’s still important to mention that real-time price quotes are the cornerstone of successful trading for many retail traders. The reason for this is the relatively short-term trading horizon of retail traders, many of which are day traders and hold their trades for only a couple of hours.
- Security and reliability – Naturally, when placing trades worth thousands of dollars, the best Forex platform has to be secure and reliable. Imagine a program that freezes the second you open a new trade – this would probably cause headaches for many of us. Fortunately, the most popular trading platforms are reliable and don’t crash when we need them the most.
- Advanced charting tools – Many traders will spend most of their time on a trading platform looking and analysing price charts, which makes charting tools an important consideration when choosing a platform. Most of the well-known platforms offer a variety of charting tools, such as trend lines, channels, and Fibonacci levels, but the differences often lie in the details. Are the tools easily accessible, are trend lines smooth and do they automatically connect to the opening and closing prices of candlesticks, and in how many ways can charts be customised? The best Forex platform needs to answer all these questions.
- Types of market orders – Even if most of your trades are executed instantly, we can’t neglect the advantage of pending orders in certain situations. Take breakout traders for example. Instead of waiting for the actual breakout to occur, breakout traders could simply place Sell Stop or Buy Stop orders at the desired price level and let their trading platform do the rest. That’s why a good trading platform needs to offer a range of different market orders.
- Online support – In case you have any questions regarding your platform’s tools, there should be a large and strong online community willing to help. Large Forex trading platform providers tend to have an advantage here, since a large user base also creates a strong online community.
Now that we know what we’re looking for in the best Forex trading platform, let’s cover the most popular of them, showcase their pros and cons, and provide an answer as to what is the best Forex trading platform currently available to retail traders.
MetaTrader 4 is hands down the most popular Forex trading platform among retail Forex traders. Although the platform was launched in 2005, it still constantly ranks among the top 3 platforms across various reviews of the best Forex trading platform.
MetaTrader 4 has a user-friendly and simple interface that is divided into five main windows: the Toolbar, Market Watch, Navigator, Terminal, and Chart windows. The Toolbar offers quick access to the most widely-used tools of the platform, such as basic charting tools, a range of timeframes, and other chart-related functions such as zooming in and out or changing the chart type.
The Market Watch section includes a list of all tradeable instruments, which can be easily applied to the price chart itself, while the Navigator provides certain account information and a list of technical indicators and Expert Advisors. Finally, the Terminal shows a list of active and pending orders as well as any unrealised profit/loss, used and available margin, and the total value of your account’s balance and equity.
It’s important to mention the large online community that has grown over the many years that MetaTrader has been on the market. Literally millions of traders are using the platform, and you can reach out to an online forum with any type of question and rest assured that someone will provide you with an answer.
The platform also features automated trading capabilities with programs called “Expert Advisors”. There are hundreds of EAs available to download for free and you can also back test them using MetaTrader 4’s built-in Strategy Tester.
While MetaTrader 4 is still the most-widely used trading platform, its successor – MetaTrader 5 – has some fresh and upgraded features. Since all of the functionality of MetaTrader 4 is also available on MetaTrader 5, here we’ll just focus on the main differences.
Compared to MetaTrader 4, MetaTrader 5 now includes additional technical indicators and a greater variety of graphical objects and timeframes. This brings its charting capabilities to a new level since traders are able to analyse price charts in more detail.
MetaTrader 5 also includes more pending orders than MetaTrader 4. New types of orders that come by default are Buy Stop Limits and Sell Stop Limits, which are basically a combination of Stop and Limit orders, which are well-known from MetaTrader 4.
Additionally, the new platform features a built-in economic calendar, which can be directly accessed from the Toolbox window (previously known as the Navigator window in MT4), and all major market events can even be shown directly on the price chart itself. The Strategy Tester, which is shown in the following picture, has also been improved, and now allows for multicurrency and multi-threaded back testing using real ticks instead of closing prices. MetaTrader 5 also has the best Forex web-trading platform, which is a significant improvement on all previous versions.
The major disadvantage of MetaTrader 5 is that there are still few brokers that support the new platform, and the online community is not as large as that of MetaTrader 4. However, as time goes by, we’re confident that both the number of brokers that support MetaTrader 5 and its respective user base will grow.
While MetaTrader is widely used by retail traders and offered by a large number of brokers, NinjaTrader caters more to professional traders and many brokers impose certain volume requirements to access this trading platform. Both platforms have advanced charting tools, automated trading capabilities, and back testing options, but NinjaTrader adds more detail and complexity to many of these features, which may be overwhelming for beginners. Charts and indicators are fully customisable in all possible ways, and traders can even apply data feeds from different sources to their charts.
Unlike MetaTrader’s Strategy Tester, which is focused on historical prices, NinjaTrader users can both back and future test their trading robots, even using simulated data feeds for trend-following robots. MetaTrader 4/5 uses its in-house developed MetaQuotes Language to code trading robots and is heavily based on the C programming language, which means that it allows for quite sophisticated trading algorithms. Still, coders need to learn the syntax of MQL to be able to write Expert Advisors for MT4/5. NinjaTrader, on the other hand, uses a language almost identical to C#, which means that any developer with a C# background can start coding on NinjaTrader right away.
Which Forex trading platform is the best?
Let’s conclude this comparison of Forex trading platforms by answering the most important question: which Forex platform is the best?
MetaTrader 4 offers a well-rounded trading package, which makes it one of the top online Forex trading platforms and one of the best Forex deals on the market. It constantly ranks among the top platforms in various Forex trading platform reviews, and its large user base ensures that a big online community is always available for support. If you’re looking for the best online Forex trading experience, look no further than MetaTrader 4.
Given the large improvements and upgrades available in MetaTrader 5, the new platform also ranks as a great choice for new traders. If the broker support and user base start to grow, MetaTrader 5 will definitely take the top spot as the best online Forex trading platform and the best web-based Forex trading platform in the coming years.
NinjaTrader, while loaded with features and tools, still lags significantly behind both MetaTrader 4 and 5. If you consult any guide on the best online Forex trading platform, MetaTrader beats NinjaTrader in almost every aspect of trading.