Best Automated Trading Platforms

An automated strategy adopted by experienced traders requires programming language to create a trading robot. Buying and selling of financial instruments are automatically executed and can be backtested on historical market data.

As with MetaTrader and their Expert Advisors, certain trading platforms offer automated software and trading robot marketplaces where users can purchase and employ automated trading strategies. The following information assesses the different algorithmic and automated features of different forex and CFD trading platforms and recommends the top trading platforms for automated trading in 2020.

By Justin Grossbard / Updated: Wednesday, January 08th, 2020

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 strategies without the need to interact with the marketplace. Trading automation will generally consist of two types:

  • Algorithmic Trading: An automated trading system also known as trading robots and Expert Advisors (EAs). Expert Advisor software follows your instruction to place a trade when market conditions match your trading strategies. 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. As well as investors new to forex and CFD trading, social and copy trading is useful for users who do not have the time to develop and execute trading strategies.

Social copy trading 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), cTrader (cTrader Automate cBots) and ProRealTime (ProOrder)

MT4 Algorithmic Tradingi) Expert Advisors (EAs) for MetaTrader

MetaTrader 4 (MT4) and MetaTrader 5 (MT5) offer programs where MetaQuotes Expert Advisors automatically buys or sells based on predetermined rules and market conditions. Automated trading programs utilise algorithms to buy and sell financial instruments, as well as monitor market conditions, seeking out potential trading opportunities for investors.

By setting your trading parameters or pre-set trading rules, Expert Advisors can notify traders of opportunities or risks when trading signals match your conditions.

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 – Wizard, Code and via the ProRealTime Marketplace.

Common functions of auto trading include:

  • Automatically open and close positions
  • Generate signals and monitor for trading opportunities
  • Manage open positions
  • Exit trades when pre-set conditions are met
  • 24/7 hour trading

Automation is popular for the following reasons

  • Save time: Trading automation eliminates the need for constant monitoring of the market for the right signals.
  • Free from human emotion and intervention: Trades are opened and closed based 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, as well as accessing a wider range of data than an individual can, and therefore increase the scope of market analysis.
  • 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 or unable to monitor market conditions.
  • High volume trading: Automated software such as Expert Advisors can perform thousands of trades at one time.

2) Social Trading

Rather than write code, set up robots or algorithmic tools for your forex or CFD trading, users can utilise social and copy trading software to employ strategies developed by other traders. Social trading opens up forex trading to everyone 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 and employ their trading strategies.
  • Simplifies trading: Social trading is great for beginners as technical and fundamental analysis are not required. Beginners can utilise the research, knowledge, and experience of seasoned CFD and forex traders.

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, social and copy trading does not eliminate the high risk associated with forex and CFD trading.

iv) Copy Trader for eToro

eToro platform is a forex trading platform with great emphasis on social and copy trading.

v) MT4/5 Signals

Trading Signals by MetaTrader’s social trading feature. Members in MetaTrader’s large community create ‘Signals’ which other members 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 Pepperstone, Plus500, and EasyMarkets. The ‘Top 5’ main features of MetaTrader 4 are:

  • Flexible and convenient trading with three execution modes, as well as two market and stop orders.
  • Analytic functions: interactive, customisable charts with nine timeframes and 30 technical indicators.
  • Mobile trading Both iOS and Android devices are supported.
  • Alerts and financial news to alert traders of targeted events impacting financial markets, and establish potential trading opportunities.
  • A free demo account to trade virtual funds on a range of markets, develop trading strategies, and backtest against historical data.

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. After learning the MQL4 coding language, then it is simple to create your own Expert Advisor. 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. MT4 offers one of the biggest collections of EAs (trading robots), algorithmic tools and technical indicators in the CFD and fx trading.  In MetaTrader’s Marketplace 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

The quality of Expert Advisors (EAs) varies significantly, not only on MetaTrader’s Marketplace, but also other automated software providers. Many EAs are free or can be purchased at a relatively low cost and should be researched and backtested prior to being implemented. To validate the quality of an EA, traders can read unbiased reviews from past users as well as assess how the EA performs when backtested against historical data.

Backtesting

Backtesting involves running your tests against real historical data to help with your trading decisions and strategy development.  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, meaning 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 (one currency pair in forex markets) at a time. If you wish to trade with many financial instruments then MT4’s Strategy Tester has limitations.
    • MT4 can only communicate with one server at a time. If you wish to test multiple EAs at the same time, and there is too much activity on the one trading server, then you may receive the message “trade context busy”.
    • Reports of backtests carried out by Strategy Tester are only available via HTML file.

Support

MetaTrader 4 does not offer customer support. For this, you will need to contact your 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 require advice, the experienced MetaTrader 4 community may be able to help.

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 instruments such as hard and soft commodities, cryptocurrencies and indices, as these trade through decentralised exchanges. Stocks or Shares (ie. not Share CFDs) run through centralised exchanges (i.e. ASX) and therefore cannot be traded on MT4. Therefore, Expert Advisors with MT4 are not 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 Signals.
  • Need to ensure the 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 ECN-like spreads from 0.0 pips.
  2. Enhanced MT4 features.
  3. Fast execution speeds.
  4. Maximum leverage of 500:1.
  5. Range of markets.
  6. Customer service.
  7. Low deposit options.
  8. Easy funding methods.
  9. Reputation and regulation.
  10. Training facilities and educational resources.

Open a demo account >>Visit IC Markets >>

MetaTrader 5

MetaTrader 5 (MT5) in many respects is an upgrade on MetaTrader 4 (MT4). Unlike MT4, MT5 is a multi-asset platform meaning users can trade derivatives that require access to centralised exchanges like Shares and Futures.

MT5 Signals

MT5 offers the following features:

  • Four execution modes, six pending order types.
  • 46 analytical indicators, 21 timeframes, and 38 technical indicators.
  • Full or partial order fills.
  • Integrated economic calendar, market news regarding economic events, and social indicators.
  • 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)  based on the C++ programming language. C++ is a more popular language than C (4th most popular language on GitHub) as well as a better language as it is an object-oriented language.

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

MetaTrader Freelance

If you wish to have your own app developed for you, you can take advantage of MetaTrader Freelance software build your own signals.

MetaTrader Freeland

Access to Marketplace

MT5 has an inbuilt Marketplace tab on the 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, meaning you use Expert Advisors for a greater range of derivatives than MT4.

Backtesting: 64-bit Memory

MT5 offers superior backtesting capabilities than MT4. Like MT4, it also uses Strategy Tester, however, MT5 is a more powerful automated trading platform. It offers the following features:

  • 64-bit memory – unlike MT4’s 32-bit memory, MT5 can handle Expert Advisors that are both 32-bit and 64-bit. If the program is well written and takes advantage of this memory then platform performance can be improved resulting in 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, or you are wanting to backtest a strategy against multiple currency pairs.
  • Unlike MT4, MT5 can communicate with four servers at one time – a trading server, access server, history server and backup server, meaning increased 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. If using EA’s, it allows traders to avoid potential slippage due to a high workload.

Cons of Expert Advisors on MT5

Community

MT5 community is not as large as MT4’s, but it is growing and likely to overtake MT4 in the future. Such growth should lead to an increase in available MQL5 EAs.

MT5 Marketplace

The MT5 community is not as large as the MT4 community and as a result, the marketplace isn’t as extensive.

MetaTrader has started to discontinue support for the older versions of MT4, accelerating the uptake of MT5. As a result, the growth of the MT5 marketplace is increasing.

MetaTrader MQL5 Signals

Like with MetaTrader 4, MetaTrader Signals are 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, meaning the choice of signals is not as large. However, this is not an issue as its the quality not the quantity of the Signals that matter.

To gain access to Signals you need to pay a fixed fee to access the feature and potentially 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)

Created by Spotware Systems and released in 2011, cTrader is a trading system designed specifically for brokers wanting to create an ECN (Electronic Communications Networks) environment. cTrader’s key strengths surround the execution of trades and charting abilities of the trading platform.

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 Market Depth quotes.
  • Server trailing stops.
  • Ability to export and download charts from the trading platform.
  • Trading accounts and templates secured 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.

These functions 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

cTrader’s Plug and Play feature allow you to load cBots from other users in the cTrader community and commence trading immediately with a click of the play button. This means users can avoid the complicated installation process previously required.

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 the cTrader forum, library and consultants. Such 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 for it to be converted.

Automate API

cTrader Automate API gives you access to all the data you will need to develop a robot or indicator, including market data and trading functions. The Automate API feature can save a significant amount 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.

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 averages, net profits and equity drawdowns, which can be matched to profit targets of your backtests.

Backtest History

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

Social Trading with cTrader Copy

cTrader Copy 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, Balance and Equity as well as trading success statistics.

 

cTrader copy Social Trading

Pepperatone is our recommended broker for Automation with cTrader

ProRealTime (Pro-Order)

ProRealTime is designed for traders requiring advanced technical analysis capabilities.ProRealTime

  • 100+ technical indicators.
  • Eight types of orders – market, limit, stop, trailing stop, one cancels the other, one triggers the other, triple orders and 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 an internet connection.

ProRealTime

Automation without programming

ProOrder’s wizard allows you to create and define your own trading requirements without the need to write code. Using the wizard, traders can define conditions, objectives and stops (stop loss, order entry) with easy drop-down menus. 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 code generator compiles the code needed to meet these objectives and parameters.

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 other communities, combined with 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 historical data going back several years for a large number of time frames.  In addition to backtesting with historical data, you can also test strategies 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.

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 trading, 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 are provided by eToro. eToro also provides risk management as a risk metric of the trader’s portfolio with the ability to action a stop loss with your orders. Copy Trading with eToro offers the following features:

  • Social news feeds.
  • The ability to follow and copy the portfolios of other traders.
  • Search and filtering functions to trace traders that best meet your trading style and objectives.
  • Newsfeeds to stay up to date on the 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 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 – combines 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 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. You can also view our country platform guides including the following comparisons:

  1. UK Forex Trading Platforms
  2. South African Forex Trading Platforms
  3. Singapore Forex Trading Platforms

Forex Brokers Offering Automation

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