One question many traders ask is “what the best algorithmic trading software is to use?”. At Quant Savvy we have tried nearly all principal brokers compatible with both Multicharts, Ninjatrader and Tradestation, we are positioned perfectly to give you the best data and insight into real live trading comparisons. Unlike other reviewers, we have traded live simultaneously multiple different broker and software combinations with identical strategies; we have comprehensive data on fill differences between platforms and brokers.
For automated trading backtesting, the right trading software must be selected based on your programming skill and expected probable hours learning a new language entirely to execute your algorithmic trading strategies correctly.
In this article, we will give a breakdown for software comparisons between NinjaTrader, Tradestation and Multicharts which is intended to help you make the right choice for you and your algorithmic trading.
A little Background On Each Software Company
This company has been around forever and earned many awards in the past. Recently they have made a substantial effort to rebrand, redesign to increase the userbase. John Bartlemen was appointed President of Tradestation two years ago but has been with the company since 1999 under the guise of Omega Research.
The company now charges no data fees, no software fees to appeal to the broader audience. Tradestation is highly specialised software relative to other brokers, in the past, it appealed predominantly to the algorithmic trading crowd, but with the additions of Matrix, app trading and Trader Concierge program, it should widen the spectrum of potential clientele.
Tradestation has been cutting edge in some respects and even offers a great mobile trading application. The app has voice technology integration with Siri. Moreover, on the go traders can get alerted to earning reports as they are about to be released.
You have the option of Multicharts (uses PowerLanguage) or Multicharts.net (uses C#). Multicharts is standalone automated trading backtest software and can connect to many different brokers; it has excellent charting and impressive live automated trading abilities.
The purpose for Multicharts was to eliminate the weaknesses of all other comparative products to ensure intuitive, streamlined experience that is custom fit to the user's needs. Multicharts gives users the freedom to use numerous different brokers and has created built-in APIs for each compatible broker directly into the platform, making it very easy to trade.
Ninja Trader Software
Their platform is powerful with advanced features and technology which can meet even the most demanding trader’s needs. If you are a competent programmer with Java or C# skills, then this might be the ideal platform for you.
NinjaTrader has been around since 2004 and has grown into a sizeable active trading firm with its own brokerage facility; it now has over 40,000 users and counting.
It is an excellent testing platform for validating real market conditions with each backtest so that you can evaluate every trade correctly.
Pros and Cons by Trading Software Category
Stability and bugs:
- Can be left open for weeks at a time without any issues. Automated Trading systems have no problem working day after day.
- They have worked on platform stability considerably with recent updates and this shows with the performance.
- Live data and historical data is accurate.
- We have heard from other traders that the workstation for Tradestation 9.5 has frozen many times with as little as four workspaces and total seven charts open.
- In our experience, the primary grievance is when an automated strategy encounters an error mid trade and turns off – there is no alert for when this happens which can be an issue especially if you have a day job.
- This trading platform rarely crashes.
- It has built-in API’s for popular brokers which tend to work very well, even though you sometimes must fiddle around with getting the data loaded.
- Software rarely crashes during live markets, however, with every new release we do see some teething issues (they should try increasing the level of beta testing).
- There have been times where we get memory leaks, but the MC team is good at providing fixes very quickly.
- Although stability has improved with the latest versions we still find in our experience, Ninja Trader is very buggy, and we have had many crashes or freezes.
- Latest improvements mean the platform is now multi-threaded makes for a better experience with NinjaTrader 8.
- Stability of the latest version is much better than the initial release.
- Some users have reported NinjaTrader 8 freezing while in a trade which then requires a restart. We have also experienced this issue a few times.
Difficult decision as all retail software has numerous issues with stability, however, with our live trading we find that Tradestation has the most consistent performance and trading with real money is when stability really counts.
- Uses Easylanguage which as implied is very easy to use and implement trading strategies, even though we do have a 1000 page guide.
- Easylanguage is limited in what it can achieve for more advanced algorithms and customisations. However, in our experience, there is little you can’t do especially with the ability to write DLL’s.
- You can write DLL’s so you can exploit the limitation of Easylanguage, but this is for the more advanced programmer.
- There is a decent guide on how to learn coding and the learning curve is not very steep.
- Multicharts PowerLanguage is almost identical to Tradestation Easy language. It can do most things but will be limited in some respects.
- PowerLanguage has a flat learning curve but allows you to automate complicated routines very easily.
- You do have the option of Multicharts.net which is C# programming language and is .NET trading platform. You can combine features of Multicharts with the endless possibilities of .NET.
- Using Multichart.NET allows you to create custom indicators and strategies just like NinjaTrader.
- For those with programming skills and already an understanding of C# this might be the best option.
- C# is a favourite programming language, and therefore you have tremendous support and plenty of resources to choose from online and communities
- For very advanced entirely customised trading systems Easylanguage will have limitations, so NinjaTrader is a better choice.
The running joke is that Traders developed Easylanguage for traders, while programmers developed ninja for programmers. However, we still find the ability to do absolutely anything for competent programmers gives NinjaTrader the edge.
- The software is well designed, and the user interface is simple. You can efficiently use the multitude of tools to create strategies, track positions, assess historical performance and trade live.
- The programming language is straightforward to get started with some simple strategies and build from there.
- The software comes with the 30-day free trial; it is relatively easy to download and install.
- There are 20 plus data feeds and brokers supported, and Multicharts has inbuilt APIs for the majority of them. Adding data and symbols to charts can be a little tricky and may require some practice.
- C# programming difficulty again comes down to your coding ability; those experienced will find the learning curve easier. However, with NinjaTrader 7 there was a lack of online guides and web material which has been improved considerably with NinjaTrader 8.
- NinjaTrader takes longer to learn and requires a lot of knowledge seeking from multiple sources.
It will take time learning any of these platforms, for us we just found it easier with Mulithcharts.
- Access historical data from the inception of Emini’s, e.g. ES market data from 1997 onwards are available on request and will load very quickly.
- For Futures accounts data is now free, you can load minute historical for stocks and futures for free.
- Some traders still think for quality data we should avoid broker data and use a real-time data provider like CQG and DTN, however, in our experience Tradestation data compares acceptably.
- Numerous brokers and connections to historical and live data but not built-in the resource. Nevertheless, you have the freedom of choice of using all popular data providers.
- You will need a data source otherwise there is little you can do.
- Can easily import and export data. In fact, you can export Tradestation data and import this directly into Multicharts database without any issues.
- Kinetick data is free for end of day data for stocks, futures and forex which is a big plus for those wanting to use this as a backtesting platform.
- Live data from Kinetick cost is extortionate at $60 fixed, and then futures exchanges like CME and CBOT are priced at $111 each per month!
- NinjaTrader does support additional market data providers such as Esignal, Tradestation, IQ Feed.
Very easy choice as the access to long-term historical data for free is unprecedented and a game changer. Free data that goes back 20 years for futures is perfect for new traders or those looking to automate their strategy.
Mobile Trading App
- Day trade on the go with a very efficient and stylish mobile application. It has a 4.3 android review score which is a good start.
- No mobile app but as long as your broker offers an app, e.g. Interactive broker then this is a non-issue unless you are automating your trades. We would prefer to see an app in the future so automated traders can keep an eye on their strategies.
- Very disappointed there is no Ninja Trader mobile app. Trading on the move is merely not an option.
Tradestation mobile app is well designed and works great. However, even with this app we still recognise a significant limitation for automated trading, the fact that none of these brokers or software can allow an automated trader to view their running live strategies is something that needs to be fixed. At Quant Savvy we use 3rd party applications like Splashtop or Teamviewer to log directly into the machine controlling our algorithmic trading servers to bypass this issue.
Speed, Backtesting and Charting
The last thing you want is to code a system on one platform and then code the same system on another platform and get different results. If this is the case, then something has clearly gone wrong in the testing process or with the way the software calculates order entry.
Tradestation and Multicharts both use the same language, so they tend to crossover seamlessly. In fact, with most strategies, you can copy and paste the code from one platform to the other, and it will work (might require a couple of keyword modifications). With a well-coded strategy we will get the same backtest results with Tradestation and Multicharts as well as Ninja Trader – this shows us that whatever we are doing makes sense.
- Charting on both the browser-based platform and desktop application focuses on keeping things simple. We find the layout designs are clean and practical. Web trading is well designed, and chart trading functionality is superior to many other brokers.
- If running a strategy with lots of loops on timeframes over ten years, it can take a long time and has been known to freeze.
- We have had Tradestation 9.5 crash if we perform backtest optimisations using a lot of data.
- We find Multicharts is faster performing backtests, we have confirmed this by running the same strategy backtest on the same set of data, we discovered Multicharts is faster by 20%.
- Tradestation offers Walk-forward analysis as well as Monte Carlo analysis to be able to evaluate your strategy using historical data distributions.
- It can be challenging to run a portfolio backtest as Portfolio Maestro is needlessly complicated.
- Backtesting comparisons show it is 20% faster in the backtesting department than Tradestation, in fact, we tend to backtest our strategies in Multicharts and then transfer the code to Tradestation to ensure we get the same results.
- Charting is some of the best in the industry, it allows for Multi-time frame analysis, fast response time, complete interactivity with everything on screen.
- Dynamic portfolio backtesting lets you test your strategies as a portfolio; this can be applied to 100s of market as once. Portfolio backtesting is an invaluable tool during technical analysis and strategy development.
- Connect with one or more broker accounts and trade directly from DOM window; you can easily attach profit targets and stops strategies from manual entry positions.
- Multicharts creates detailed performance reports automatically so the user can efficiently evaluate the backtest performance.
- Genetic optimiser and walkforward optimiser is also available with Multicharts.
- Multicharts can display a chart based on time, volume or tick based. Moreover, you can use Heikin-Ashi, Renko, Kagi, Point and Figure charts and even run strategies and indicators on them.
- It does have issues with reliability with backtests; often they work very different to live trading, this is especially apparent when you use intrabar order generation which gives you unreasonable fills.
- Many new customers will find testing issues in which the backtest is overperforming based on improper code.
- The user interface relative to Multicharts and Tradestation is somewhat lacking. Can be slow loading charts or adjusting timeframes.
- Many traders and reviewers have concerns over the speed of backtesting and even further concerns regarding Market Analyser, especially when running scans of over 100 symbols.
- Multi-time fame strategies can be applied.
- More than 100 pre-built indicators as well as the option of many more if you include the third-party indicator add-ons.
- Indicators and tools are highly customisable as it to be expected with a C# driven programming software.
- NinjaTrader 8 is faster than 7, this is true for the overall platform and performing a backtest.
- You can run Monte Carlo simulation as well as walk forward optimization.
- NinjaTrader simulation engine is not a simple algorithm that fills your order once the market trades at your order price. The engine uses a methodical approach to control trade fill probability by including a number of variables including ask/bid volume, trade volume, time (to simulate order queue position), and random time delays for switching between order states.
A tough choice for each platform has its merits. The way Quant Savvy designs systems and how we apply chart settings we find Multicharts works better for us, I am sure every trader will have a different experience which is very normal.
Order Types, Stop-Loss Abilities and Trade Management
- In TradeStation, there are four basic order types (Market, Limit, Stop-Market, Stop-Limit) used in combination with an order action (Buy, Sell, Sell Short, Buy to Cover, etc.).
- The Tradestation TradeManager window displays trade and account activity. All orders are logged to the TradeManager window on a real-time basis. Orders are color-coded so you can differentiate between different order statuses at a glance. Colors are updated in real-time as the status of your orders changes. You can quickly close positions and cancel orders from the TradeManager window, as well as view your order history.
- Can range from simple stops to complex strategies with multiple targets, break-even levels and so on. All are easy to setup and customisable to your needs.
- With strategy programming you still only have Limit buy and sell orders, Market buy and sell order, Limit stop orders. No other order types are supported which is a shame as Interactive Brokers has many order types which would be very appreciated.
- The software comes with Order and Position Tracker window which will give a comprehensive summary of orders, positions, and accounts across all brokers used for your trading.
- Multicharts does have issues with tracking profits; this is more difficult because a 3rd party broker is required and Multicharts cannot track things like commissions etc. You can do a basic track of live profit and loss statement – we expect this to be upgraded with futures releases.
- You can build systems with many types of orders, easily incorporate stop-loss orders and target orders.
- All stops and target orders can be sent out as soon as you enter a trade, hence if you lose internet connection or get disconnected your orders will remain on the trade network limiting a potential disaster situation.
- NinjaTrader’s Super Dom feature for trade management allows superior customisability. As with nearly all trading software you can have one-click entries and exits. NinjaTrader also can be used with the Advanced Trade Management module.
- The normal limit, market and OCO (one cancels other) orders are available as well as trailing stops.
Great Dom, wider array of order types.
Market Replay and Other Analytical Tools
- No built-in market replay functionality.
- The market replay feature is available, and you can recreate real-time trading even tick by tick replay can be performed.
- Tick by tick, Minute by Minute or Day by Day playback options.
- Multicharts can also recalculate your chart indicators on each tick, keeping the user synchronized with the real market situation.
- Multiple playback speeds.
- You can jump back and forth in ticks on intraday charts; this is beneficial when you want to skip activity in a slow market.
- Global replay mode allows you to playback a market in several places at ones.
- Very advanced market replay ability, you can rewind to any trading day and practice as if you were trading live. This tool gives a manual day trader a chance to test any new ideas or assess their chart reading abilities.
- More tools and features such as customisable charts and strategy analysers are available.
This is just based on our personal preference.
Setup, Updates and Support
- We have heard many times that clients can’t get through to support via phone, however, testing this we find the average connection time to be less than 1 minute. They have overall customer service score of 8.39/10 compiled results by research group Confero. They ranked 5 th (13 brokers).
- They have recently launched a new website and education centre which has signalled the complete rebranding of Tradestation.
- They inform us they are also launching Tradestation TV powered by Chedder, this will give exclusive content from Chedder which will deliver content via mobile apps. Facebook Live, YouTube, Twitter, thereby reaching a younger audience.
- Tradestation offers one-hour private learning sessions for $150.
- Countless online help guides and YouTube videos available.
- Quality live support, you can live chat and usually connect to an agent within 5 minutes.
- If there is an issue, an agent will connect to your platform via Teamviewer to collect the error data and review.
- Multicharts has strong forum support.
- New brokers supported are added with every new release, the popular Forex broker Oanda has been added for example.
- The developers listen to their clients and tend to implement features which have been requested. Many times a client will request something via support forum and Multicharts will list the expected implementation time this feature might be rolled out.
- Video tutorials are available for nearly all broker setup combinations.
- Carefully engineered their platform so a user can enjoy quick and easy setup. You can download the program and be up and running within 15 minutes.
- Very long release cycles, they do have multiple smaller releases to provide support for bug fixing.
- Responsive forums, nearly 10x the activity on forums compared to Multicharts.
- Everything from webinars, help guides and training video as well as a very popular forum.
- The technical support can also be excellent either via email or support forum.
Faster updates and release cycles. More responsive to user requests for new features. Very helpful support.
- There are 274 indicators/studies available with Tradestation.
- Clients can also share and sell their indicators via TradeStation TradingApp Store, many products are free, but other can range between $50 per month to $200 per month.
- There is at this time over 1000 products available on TradeStation app store.
- Multicharts basic comes with many indicator preloaded.
- Multicharts.NET has volume profiling or Market profitle as a built-in feature – this is supported by the platform instead of 3rd party which makes it viable for the long term.
- Indicator on another indicator can be computed and displayed on a chart without any programming, e.g. if you want to calculate an RSI on a simple moving average you can display the results on a chart very quickly.
- Multicharts comes with over 280 pre-built indicators; you can also use 3rd party add-on studies.
- With NinjaTrader you can customise their platform and technical indicators. Even though we find most indicators to be useless Ninja still has much more than the rest.
- Well in excess of 100 pre-built indicators as well as a massive library of optional third-party indicator add-ons.
- You can even contact a NinjasScript consultant to assist you with code.
NinjaTrader – has vastly more 3rd party add-ons. NinjaTrader is coded in C# so the active algorithmic trading community is enormous.
- they support no other brokers as Tradestation has been a solid futures and options broker for many years
- Compatible with nearly all significant brokers such as Interactive Brokers, Gain Capital, Oanda...see complete list here.
- Since NinjaTrader launched their own brokerage services in July 2014 they limited the number of 3 rd party brokers which can be used. They only offer NinjaTrader Brokerage, Interactive Brokers, FXCM, MB Trading, Ameritrade and Forex.com.
This is solely for compatibility with numerous popular brokers.
Software Cost, Commissions and Fees?
- Software and data is free for most clients’ accounts.
- You can trade Forex, Futures, Equities and Options with Tradestation. With the most common pricing structure for equity trading will cost you $5 flat-fee and options trades cost $5 + $0.50 per contract.
- Multicharts Is not a broker so all commissions will applied by the compatible broker you use. The data provider also determines the data cost you select.
- Multicharts does offer a 30-day free demo which is very useful for prospective clients.
- The software costs $99 per month for a 3-month subscription. However, a lifetime subscription can be purchased for $1497.
- Multicharts.NET also has the same pricing structure.
- Since NinjaTrader launched their brokerage services in July 2014, they limited the number of 3 rd party brokers which can be used. They only offer NinjaTrader Brokerage, Interactive Brokers, FXCM, MB Trading, Ameritrade and Forex.com.
- Minimum deposit for a futures trading account is $1,000.
- Commissions typically start at $0.53 per contract, but this is dependant on whether you are leasing the software or using the free version.
- Purchase Lifetime license for $999 or annual lease for $600 if you have a compatible broker.
- The free software version requires you to use NinjaTrader Brokerage.
Very low commissions, access to numerous markets, free software, free historical one-minute data.
At Quant Savv y
we trade our Chimera Algo Bot live on both Tradestation and Multicharts. We use every major broker for live trading for our clients. The same strategy is traded on different Servers located in the same area. I feel this puts us in a unique position to compare the actual live performance (nearly all other forums and debates on this topic do not see daily live fill comparisons for automated systems).
- We have calculated the fills difference between brokers when trading the same automated trading strategy, and we find Tradestation has the lowest latency and better fills, this can sometimes be as much as two tick better with common Emini instruments.
- Interactive Brokers, AMP Futures, Dorman Trading, MB Trading, Futures Online, Gain Capital, have all been traded live with Multicharts running the systems. We find Tradestation continually gets better fills than all broker combinations with Multicharts.
- The worst broker combination is anything that clears with Gain capital, not only do they have the worst live fills, but also, they can handle certain order types, expect numerous rejected orders in high-speed markets.
- We do not compare Ninja Trader live fills, so we cannot comment, but our trading research has concluded that fills are decent.
Tradestation, proven better fills and lower latency. If any reader wants to debate this point with us, we can show you the live trade by trade comparisons between the different trading strategy execution combinations
You need to spend time on each platform and see which one suits your trading style and personality. Traders who require more custom built and complex systems might need to look at using C# or Python, but I would say for the other 95% of day trader Easylanguage will suffice.
Ninja Trader although much improved still has a steep learning curve for the average day trader who wants to start automating. There is no need to spend hours learning C# when nearly all systems and strategies can be coded with both Multicharts and Tradestation PowerLanguage/EasyLanguage. In our experience, some traders/programmer want to take the long route to the goal often under the guise of technical superiority, trust us, most of the advanced coding is not required for the average algorithmic trading strategy.
Creating your own API’s or customising everything with NinjaTrader can be very wasteful especially if you get bogged down with technical details instead of creating value.
All platforms have their positives and negatives, for the Quant Savvy team, Tradestation is the winner. Tradestation has a highly rated mobile app, across the board commission price cuts combined with the free software and free live trading data and free historical data which can go back 20 years is a game changer. Tradestation has more than 30 years experience under its belt; it has always been a leader and innovator in the automated trading realm.
Making money is the primary purpose for most traders (except the self-described elite programmers who like to write lovely complex unnecessary code), the TradeStation live performance has better day trading fills, this means improved long-term results. Most other reviewers have never ran all platforms simultaneously side by side to test live trading execution, whereas, as we offer the Quant Savvy algorithmic trading strategies to clients who trade with numerous different brokers we can easily track the live fills, Tradestation beats other fills 90% of the time.
Overall Winner: Tradestation
Other Platforms You Can Try