Best Automated Trading Platforms

An automated strategy adopted by experienced traders requires programming language to create a trading robot that automates buying and selling and can be tested on historic market data or requires a trading platform that has a trading robot marketplace where the right automated trading strategy can be purchased.

By Justin Grossbard / Updated: Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Swissquote Review
Best ForMetaTrader 4 (Expert Advisors)MetaTrader 5 (Expert Advisors)cTrader (cTrader Automate)ProRealTime (ProOrder)eToro (Copy Trader)
Social Trading / Mirror Trading
Social Copy and Follow
Algorithmic Trading
Trading Robots
Forex Trading
CFDs Trading
Stock Trading
Programming LanguageMQL4 (Similar to C)MQL5 (based on C++)C#Similar to BASICN/A
Supportvia brokervia brokervia broker
Community SupportLargestLargeLargeMediumLarge
Free or Open Source✘ (brokers may offer it free)
BacktestingSingle ThreadedMulti-ThreadedMulti-Backtesting / not visualMulti_threadedN/A
Execution SpeedFastFastestFastestFastSlower

Comparing Automated Trading Platforms For Algorithmic Trading

Many brokers allow trading automation via their trading platform.  Automation tools allow you to implement your trading plans without the need to interact with the marketplace. Trading automation will generally consist of two types:

  • Algorithmic Trading: Also known as trading robots or automated trading system, is software that follows your instruction to place a trade when market conditions match your trading conditions. Expert Advisors used by
  • MetaTrader, cBots used in cTrader Automate and ProOrder tools for ProRealTime are examples of tools used for trading automation.
  • Social Trading: Social copying and social mirroring are trading strategies where you copy others publicly available trading strategies.

Social copy is when you copy the style of other traders, network with them and learn from them. In this sense, trading is more communal as you are engaged with other traders via social trading tools.

  • Mirror trading is when you mirror the trading style of other traders without actually engaging with them.

Click on the link below to see our comparison of the automation features for our recommended platforms

1) Automated Trading with MetaTrader 4 (MT4), MetaTrader 5 (MT5) and cTrader (cTrader Automate cBots) and ProRealTime (ProOrder)

MT4 Algorithmic Tradingi) Expert Advisors (EAs) for MetaTrader

MetaTrader 4 (MT4) and MetaTrader 5 (MT5) can run programs which MetaQuotes call Expert Advisors (EAs). These programs use trading algorithms to monitor and trade in derivatives markets.

By setting your trading parameters or pre-set trading rules EAs can notify of opportunities or risks when trading signals match your conditions. In addition to notifications,

ii) cTrader Automate cBots for cTrader

cBots is the same as EA except is the terminology used when using cTrader automated trading platforms.  Due to the enormous popularity of MetaTrader, you may even sometimes here the term cTrader EAs.

iii) ProOrder for ProRealTime

ProOrder allows for automation via three main methods. These are via Wizard, code and via the ProRealTime Marketplace.

Common functions of auto trading include:

  • Automatically initiate trades
  • Generate signals and monitor for trading opportunities
  • Manage positions when open
  • Exit trades
  • 24/7 hour trading

Automation is popular for the following reasons

  • Save time: Trading automation means you don’t need to constantly monitor the market for the right signals
  • Removes emotions from trading: Trades can be done on hard data, not human emotion. Fear or greed do not influence decisions that may occur with manual trading
  • Simplify decision process: Robots can perform a wider range of calculations and access a wider range of data than an individual can
  • Customisable: Automation tools can be customised to meet your preferred trading parameters
  • Trade non-stop: Automations allows for trading at all hours, even when you are sleeping
  • High volume trading: Automation means you can perform thousands of trades are one time.

2) Social Trading

Rather than write code or set up robots or algorithmic tools for your forex trading or contracts-for-difference (CFD) trading another valid option is to use social trading.

Social trading opens up forex trading to everyone. This is because it removes the (sometimes) complicated process of setting up EAs and cBots.

Social trading services allow you to follow successful and experienced traders, see their trading activities and automatically copy their trading strategies for profitable trades.

Advantages of social trading:

  • Collective knowledge: Traders can share trading tips and learn from each other
  • Copy trading experts: Many social tools have a ranking system in place to identify the most successful traders. By identifying the best traders others can take advantage of their success.
  • Simplifies trading: Social trading is great for beginners as you don’t need to do the trading analysis. You leave it for those with trading experience and leverage their research, knowledge and trades.

Disadvantages:

  • False sense of security: Just because you are copying a successful trader or engaged in welcoming community does not mean you will be successful with your trades.

iv) Copy Trader for eToro

eToro platform is a forex trading platform with major social trading emphasis.

v) MT4/5 Signals

Trading Signals by MetaTrader’s social trading feature. Members in MetaTrader’s large community create ‘Signals’ which you can follow and copy.

vi) cTrader Copy

cTrader copy is cTraders copy service that consists of risk management and in-depth strategy profiles tools to assist with safer copy execution.

MT4 Trading Platform Logo

1) MetaTrader 4 (Expert Advisors)

MetaTrader 4 (MT4) is the most popular trading platform offered by forex brokers including Plus500 and EasyMarkets. The ‘Top 5’ features of MT4 broadly are:

  • Flexible and convenient trading with 3 execution modes, 2 market and stop orders
  • Analytic functions with interactive charts, 9 timeframes and 30 technical indicators
  • Mobile trading with iOS and Android OS support and a plethora of trading orders
  • Alerts and financial news to alert traders of targeted events impacting financial markets
  • A free demo account to trade virtual funds on a range of markets.

MetaTrader 4 Platform

Pros of Expert Advisors with MT4

Programming Language

MT4 Algorithmic Trading

MT4 uses MetaQuotes Language 4 (MQL4) which is similar to the C programing language. If you are able to code in MQL4 then you can create your own EA. C language is the 5th most popular language on GitHub so access to developers with an ability to code in or learn MQL4 should be high.

MT4 Marketplace

Due to the popularity and long shelf life of the MT4 platform, MT4 has one of the largest trading platform marketplaces. Here you can find one of the biggest collections of EAs (trading robots), algorithmic tools and technical indicators in the FX and CFDs trading Marketplace to automate your trading. Here you can find:

  • Over 1,700 trading robots
  • Over 2,100 technical indicators

Cons of Expert Advisors on MT4

Low-quality Expert Advisors in marketplace

Many EAs are free or for a low cost so the quality of the EAs can be highly variable. It is therefore important that if you are buying an EA that is ready-made, that you research the product by looking at unbiased reviews and perform backtesting with it prior to purchase.

This issue however, is not unique to MT4 and will be found on all automation tools you purchase.

Backtesting

Backtesting involves running your tests against real historical data to help with your trading decisions.  MT4 uses Strategy Tester for backtesting. The product is an excellent tool for backtesting however for comparison purposes there may be the following potential issues

  • 32-bit memory – MT4 uses 32-bit memory which means it will only be able to handle automated trading software designed for 32-bit memory. Memory intensive programs may affect backtesting performance
  • single-threaded –
    • MT4 Strategy tester can only test with one trading instrument at a time. If you wish to trade with many financial instruments then you may have some limitations
    • MT4 can only communicate with one server at a time. If you wish to test multiple EAs at one time and there is too much activity on the one trading server then you may receive the message “trade context busy”.
    • Reporting – reporting of your backtesting is only available via HTML file

Support

MetaTrader 4 does not offer personal support, for this, you will need to contact you broker who should be able to assist. MetaTrader 4 due to its enormous popularity does offer one of the largest online communities so if you get stuck or need advise, using MetaTrader 4 offers you the best chance of finding help online.

Access to Marketplace

MT4 does not have a built tab to access the marketplace. You need to go to MetaTrader 4 marketplace website and find your desired EA.

Contracts For Difference Trading (CFD)

MT4 is one of the best trading platforms for Forex and other CFD such as hard and soft commodities, cryptocurrencies and indices as these trade through decentralised exchanges. Stocks or Shares (ie. not shares CFD) run through centralised exchanges (i.e. ASX) and therefore cannot be traded on MT4. Expert Advisors with MT4 therefore, won’t be very useful for share trading.
MT4 Copy TradingMetaTrader 4 Market

MetaTrader 4 MQL Signals

MQL Signals is MetaTrader’s solution for social trading. MT4 forex trading platform allows you to automatically copy ‘signals’ of other traders in the MT4 community in real-time.

Benefits

  • Over 3200 free and paid signals sorted in order of their success
  • Ability to leverage the expertise of others in the large MT4 community
  • A potential source of income if you others choose to buy your Signal

Cons

  • Need to research you signals
  • Need to ensure signal is always online

IC Markets Is The Recommended MT4 Automated Forex Broker

IC Markets is recommended MT4 automated traders based on 10 key factors listed below:

  1. Low Spreads From 0.0 pips
  2. Enhanced MT4 Features
  3. Fast execution speeds
  4. Up To 500:1 Leverage
  5. Range of markets
  6. Customer Service
  7. Low deposit options
  8. Easy funding methods
  9. Reptation and regulation
  10. Training facilities

Open a demo account >>Visit IC Markets >>

MetaTrader 5

MT5 in many respects is an upgrade on MT4. MT5. Unlike MT4, MT5 is a multi-asset platform which means that you can trade derivatives that require access to centralised exchanges like Stock and futures.

MT5 Signals

MT5 offers the following features:

  • 4 execution modes, 6 pending order types
  • 46 analytical indicators, 21 timeframes, 38 technical indicators
  • Full or partial order fills
  • Integrated economic calendar and social indicators like news of major economic events
  • Depth of market

Pros of Expert Advisors with MT5

Programming Language

MT4 Algorithmic Trading

Unlike MT4 which uses MQL4 based on C programming language, MT5 uses MataQuotes language 5 (MQL5) which is based on C++ programming language. C++ is an even more popular language than C (4th most popular language on GitHub) and is a better language than C as it is an object-oriented language.

Metaquotes decision to offer MQL5 rather than MQL4 however, means you will not be able to use EAs written for MT4. The two languages are simply not compatible.

MetaTrader Freelance

If you wish to have your own app developed for you, you can take advantage of MetaTrader Freelance to have your own signal built.

MetaTrader Freeland

Access to Marketplace

MT5 has an inbuilt Marketplace tab on its platform. Unlike MT4 which requires you to crawl through multiple websites to find your desired MT4 expert advisor, MT5 has all your apps in one place and easy to access directly via the platform.

Contracts for Difference Trading (CFD)

With MetaTrader 5 you can trade centrally exchange-traded assets such as stocks and futures. This means you use Expert Advisors for a greater range of derivatives than MT4.

Backtesting

MT5 offers better testing capability than MT4. Like MT4, it also uses Strategy Tester however MT5 is a more powerful automated trading platforms. It offers the following features:

  • 64-but memory – unlike mt4 which uses 32-bit, MT5 can handle Expert Advisors that can handle both 32-bit and 64-bit. If the program is well written and takes advantage of this memory then platform performance can be improved which can mean faster-automated trading.
  • Multi-threaded –
    • MT5 can test multiple financial instruments at one time. This may be important if you have Expert Advisors performing many trades or analysing high volumes of data at one time.
    • MT5 can communicate with 4 servers at one time. Trading server, access server, history server and backup server. This means more power backtesting capabilities
    • Reporting – backtesting can be captured as an Excel file or HTML file

    Trading Speed

    MT5 uses 64-bit memory and 4 servers (trading, access, backup and history servers) which means faster trading capability than MT4. This will be important if using EA as avoiding potential slippage due to high workload.

     

    Cons of Expert Advisors on MT5

    Community

    MT5 community is not as large as MT4 but it is growing and likely to overtake MT4 in future. This growth should lead to an increase in available EAs.

    MT5 Marketplace

    The MT5 community is not as large as the MT4 community and as a result, the marketplace isn’t as extensive. Adoption of the MT5 platform isn’t as large has been slow as the initial version of MT5 had some limitations however these have fixed and uptake of MT5 is on the increase.

    MetaTrader has also started to discontinue support for the older versions of MT4 which should accelerate the uptake of MT5 and as a result the growth of the MT5 marketplace.

    MetaTrader MQL5 Signals

    Like with MetaTrader 4, MetaTrader signal is available on MT5. The main difference is that MT5 comes with a Signals Tab built into the platform making it far easier to find signals.

    The other difference is that the MT5 community is not as large as the MT4 community. This means your choice of signals is not as large as MT4. This however, is not an issue as its the quality of the signals not quantity that matters.

    To gain access to Signals you need to pay a fixed fee to access the feature and possibly each broker you choose to copy.

    MetaTrader Signals

    Pepperstone is our recommended MT5 Broker for Trading Automation

    You can view our recommended Pepperstone MetaTrader 5 review to learn more about the forex trading platform and forex broker.

cTrader (cTrader Automate formerly cAlgo)

Made by Spotware Systems and released in 2011, cTrader is a trading system designed specifically for ECN brokers. cTrader’s key strengths are in the execution of trades and charting.

When it comes to trade execution, cTrader allows synchronous execution which means cTrader can rapidly fill multiple orders are one time. This means no order queues and lower risk of trading slippage.

When it comes to charts, cTrader allows up to 50 charting templates and 28 timeframes.

Features of cTrader include:

  • 70 pre-installed indicators and 28 timeframes
  • Level II quotes
  • Server trailing stops
  • Ability to export charts out of the platform
  • Trading accounts and templates kept in the cloud
  • FIX API

In May 2018, cTrader was merged with cAlgo and is now called cTrader 3.0. cTrader is now called cTrader Trade and cAlgo is know as cTrader automate and each along with cTrader Copy (the successor to cTrader’s social copying tool cMirror) combine to form a list of powerful modules on cTrader. This merging means users will no longer need to install each app separately.

Benefits of cTrader’s Automate

Plug and Play functionality

This feature allows you to load cBots from other users in the cTrader community and commence trading immediately with click of the play button. This means users don’t need to go through a complicated installation process.

Forex traders can access these robots via the ‘Automate’ tab found on the platform and more can be downloaded from cTDN also via the platform.

cTrader Programming language

One can build cBots using the inbuilt code editor or visual studio. The code editor makes coding as straightforward as possible. cBots are written using C#.

cTrader’s Developer Network

Like MetaTrader, cTrader has a dedicated developer community. Here one can share, discuss and collaborate on useful features such as cBots and indicators.

cTrader Community

cTrader Automate provides access to cTrader forum, library and consultants. All these resources can help you make the most of the features cTrader Automate offers.

Ability to convert EAs on MT4 to cBots

As cTrader Automate requires cBots to be written in C# language, it may be possible to use EAs written for MT4 on cTrader. Before EAs can be used, you will need to convert the EA to cBOTs. A search online will find tools that allow you to upload code online to be converted.

Automate API

cTrader Automate API gives you access to all the data you will need to develop a robot or indicator. These include market data and trading functions. This feature can save a lot of time when it comes to development.

BackTesting

Visual testing

  • cTrader allows visual backtesting ability for testing how a cBot performs against historical ticks or data over a chosen time period.

Optimisation

  • Optimisation tools allow you to find the best parameters for backtesting your cBots. With these features multiple backtests can be run and compared against performance.

Historical Data

  • cTrader allows you to backtest against historical data for a wide range of symbols

Statistics

  • You can review trade statistics such as winning trades, moving average, net profit and equity drawdowns and matched to profit targets for your backtests

Backtest History

  • cTrader will store all your backtesting data so it can be reviewed in future

Social Trading with cTrader Copy

cTrader Copy combines improves on the best features of cMirror and PAMMS. These features are included free as part of the platform rather than as an add-on.

Key features of cTrader include:

  • Risk management: cTrader copy comes with tools to help manage your risks when mirroring other trades. These include equity stop-loss, forced stop-loss/take-profit per position, volume percentage and mirroring direction.
  • Copying control: Real-time controls on when commencement and exit of the mirroring process
  • Transparent: Ability to see Strategy’s profile, trading history and positions open
  • Analytical Tools: In-depth charts such as ROI and Balance and Equity along with trading success statistics

 

cTrader copy Social Trading

Pepperatone is our recommended broker for Automation with cTrader

ProRealTime (Pro-Order)

ProRealTime is designed for traders wanting advanced technical analysis capability.ProRealTime

  • 100+ technical indicators
  • 8 types of orders (market, limit, stop, trailing stop, one cancels the other, one triggers the other, triple orders, oblique orders)
  • unlimited timeframe selection
  • state of the art market scanning tools to identify securities that match your investment criteria
  • 20 drawing tools

ProOrder is the ProRealTime tool for automatic trading and backtesting. The platform is only available via Web browser with internet connection.

ProRealTime

Automation without programming

ProOrder has a wizard which allows you to create your own define your own trading requirements without writing code. The wizard takes allows you to define your conditions, objectives and stops (stop loss, order entry) with the use of drop-down menus. When these are defined, a generate code will compile the code you need,

Automation by programming

You can write your own automation using ProBuilder language. ProBuilder is very similar to Visual Basic. Given the ProRealTime community is not as large as MetaTrader and cTrader communities and the falling popularity of Visual Basic, it is possible you may find it more difficult to find the right resources to help you with your development needs.

Plug and Play Trading

This feature allows you to load robots and indicators or download from other cTrader community users that are ready to do the trading for you when you press play.

Visual Backtesting

You can visually view your cBots trading performance against a broker’s historical ticks over a specified period of time.

Historic and Real-Time BackTesting

You can backtest against historic data going back several years for a large number of time frames.  In addition to backtesting with historic data you can also test with live market data to simulate live trading by creating a test account.

Offline Trading

Unlike Expert Advisors and cTrader which requires you to have either your computer running or to use a virtual private server (VPS) for your automation tools to run, ProOrder is run via its own server. This means your trading automation can run even if you are offline.

We recommended IG Markets for ProOrder.

eToro

Social Trading with eToro

eToro Logo

eToro is one of the more unique trading platforms on the market. This is because the key feature of the trading platform is social trading. The eToro platform is a community of traders who either want others to copy them or those who want to copy others trading.

Key features of the platform

  • World’s biggest social trading network (4.5 million users in over 150 countries)
  • Social trading tools – follow and copy other traders
  • Choice of Forex, shares CFD, indices, commodities and cryptocurrencies for trade

Social Trading with eToro

Copy Trades – Social Trading with eToro

Social trading with eToro can seem like using Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms. With Copy Trades you can copy the portfolio of traders who also trade with eToro. You won’t be copying blindly as data with monthly and yearly breakdowns of the performance of these traders is provided. eToro also provide risk management as a risk metric of the trader’s portfolio is provided and ability to action a stop loss with your orders. Copy Trades has the following features

  • Social news feeds
  • ability to follow and copy portfolios of other traders
  • search and filtering to trace traders that best meet your trading style
  • feeds to stay up to date on latest market events
  • Ability to view traders portfolio including a breakdown of trading history by month and year
  • Risk metric for traders performance
  • Countless stats of traders performance such as average trades per week and hold time

eToro Social Trading Platform

Popular Investor Program

You can earn income a second income if you have a unique or interesting investment strategy that results in other trader following and copying you.  For every person that copies you, you will receive a payment of up to 2% of the amount each person invests when they copy you.

Copy Portfolios

This is much like an investment fund. There are two types:

  • Top Trader Portfolio – this combines the best performing and sustainable traders in the eToro network
  • Market Portfolios – this combined CFD stocks, commodities or ETFs as part of one portfolio

Partner CopyPortfolio

This is much the same as Copy Portfolio except you create your own investment fund. You are then responsible for managing, distributing and promoting the portfolio for others to invest. Each person that invests in the portfolio will earn you income.

We recommend eToro for Social trading automation

eToro is probably the most well known social platform for social trading. Given the size of the community and its the wealth of social trading options available, it is likely the best pure social trading platform around however, there are other options. MetaTrader and cTrader both offer their own social trading tools and you may consider this option preferable given these platforms are superior platforms for trading in general.

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Our Recommended Automated Forex Brokers

If you are unsure if MetaTrader 4 or MetaTrader 5 is more suitable for yourself, we have a created an MT4 vs MT5 guide designed for those considering Pepperstone.

Forex Brokers Offering Automation