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As facilitators of online transactions in a decentralized environment, trading platforms have obtained growing popularity among retail traders. Various dealers can either partner with the third-party platform provider or self-develop a variant, whilst others may offer both. Despite several distinctions, those programs are free to use and provide a wide range of basic as well as advanced functionality to improve user experience. This article would mention the top six free trading platforms in the forex market.
What is the Best Free Trading Platform?
Trading platforms are software programs that give traders entry to financial markets without their physical presence in formal exchanges or financial centers. They are broadly employed in the forex and CFDs market. As this market is the main playground for large banks and financial institutions, retail traders hardly gain exposure to currency pairs and other assets unless there is a trading platform.
Normally, a platform is already integrated with varied features for trading and analyzing purposes. On the client terminal, forex traders can implement paper to test trading strategies and get attuned to financial markets. Otherwise, they can open a real account to start trading on selected instruments. Apart from these similarities, all trading platforms are designed to serve different customer segmentation. Moreover, they are free for download and employment of their properties, but brokerages will impose some charge on your trading activities on those platforms, typically spreads and commissions.
This article will not describe proprietary software designed by forex brokerages, but rather focus on the six most popular trading platforms delivered by third parties.
MetaTrader 4 (MT4)
In recent research, more than half of surveyed traders voted MetaTrader 4 as the leading trading platform in the FX market. Indeed, being developed by MetaQuotes Software Corporate in 2005, MT4 primarily serves foreign exchange trades. Its outstanding features involve:
- 9 different timeframes, ranging from M1 (one minute) to MN (monthly)
- 30 built-in technical indicators to base a trading decision on analyzing price movements
- 31 analytical objects to help traders easily mark market trends
On the MT4 trading platform, speculators can place a market or pending order. The latter is categorized into four separate groups including Buy Limit, Sell Limit, Buy Stop and Sell Stop. Beyond that, MetaTrader 4 supports risk management by allowing users to set up stop-loss and take-profit orders.
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Another strength of the platform is automated trading. Those with technical background can use the built-in “Mediator” constituent to build, edit and compile a program namely an Expert Advisor developed in MetaQuotes Language 4 (MQL4). Non-technical traders may use MQL4 Wizard to create new experts that automatically implement forex transactions and technical analysis of price patterns based on input parameters.
What strikes forex traders about MetaTrader 4 is its hedging option that enables the simultaneous opening of multiple positions of the same currency pairs. This functionality even authorizes users to enter trades in the opposite directions. The platform is also valued over other fellows on the ground of its stability in currency speculation, despite some arguments among professional traders that it operates rather slower.
Designed with an intuitive and easy-to-navigate interface, MT4 is available for a variety of operating systems. Accordingly, users can perform foreign exchange trades on websites, desktop computers and even portable devices. However, MetaQuotes released no official MacOS-based version, so macOS users have to use tailored MT4 variants built by their chosen brokers or install third-party software such as Wine or PlayOnMac.
MetaTrader 5 (MT5)
Another prevalent platform launched by MetaQuotes is MetaTrader 5. This model is thought to function as an alternative for MetaTrader 4 in the forex market. But this statement is not completely right because MT5 aims at a wider range of niches. Not confined to the currency market, the platform extends to support those trading stocks, futures and many more. Compared to MetaTrader 4, its counterpart has several dominant attributes as follows:
- 21 timeframes being classified into five batches: minute, hourly, daily, weekly and monthly charts
- 38 built-in indicators and 44 analytical objects
- 6 types of pending orders, including two additional orders called Buy Stop-Limit and Sell Stop-Limit
- multi-threaded backtesting for large orders and numerous instruments
- the Depth of Market (DoM) that displays all the best bids and asks as well as order volume of any given instrument
Besides hedging, MetaTrader 5 offers the netting option that merely permits traders to execute transactions in order. Provided traders open a position in their real accounts, they are required to ask brokers for switching to the hedging mode.
MT5 is favored for its algorithm trading which is seen as robot trading to perform the technical analysis of quotes and the execution of transactions in the forex and exchange markets without much human manipulation.
Like MT4, MT5 empowers traders to create and compile program source codes written in the object-oriented programming (OOP) language MQL5 for trading automation. Furthermore, apart from the mentioned analysis tools to facilitate the prediction of price action, both MetaTrader programs accompany an economic calendar to be informed of major news. Meanwhile, brokerages can manage all activities such as sending quotes or margin calls to clients on the server.
Research has shown that cTrader is among the most widely used platforms in the forex and CFDs market, merely after MT4 and MT5. This multi-asset program is available for use on browsers and desktop computers, whether you are Mac, Windows or Linux operating systems. To meet increasingly high demands of mobile users, Spotware Software inaugurates iOS and Android-based models as well though, the company still mostly focuses on desktop-based versions.
Regarding trading activities, cTrader allows multiple currency transactions to be executed at once and possibly shows a full list of executable quotes thanks to its DoM functionality. Also, it provides other advanced features for order protection such as Quick Trade, Smart Stop-Out or Advanced Take-Profit.
In addition, the platform is impressive with a pile of charts and indicators which can be customized for technical analyses although some traders argue that the use of third-party indicators is limited in cTrader.
cTrader Copy is a built-in component of the platform to respectively mimic the trading strategies of successful traders at no cost or for a commission. Meanwhile, cTrader Automate is a powerful solution that helps in writing C# codes to develop automated trading strategies. Still, the support community for auto-trading is not so thriving as that of MetaTrader. So it is sometimes challenging to look for help with the platform.
Many traders used to complain about the absence of economic calendar and time market news on cTrader. It was not until late 2019 that the creator announced the coming of some new features including an Economic Calendar and Multi-Symbol Backtesting.
Being publicly introduced in 2007, ZuluTrade is intended for fostering copy and social trading in the forex and CFDs market. In other words, it lets traders receive trading suggestions or copy trade settings from “expert” traders, or called signal providers, to make money. The platform’s layouts in available devices are considered user-friendly, not to mention its attachment with various dealers. Some tremendous features consist of:
- Automator: Acting as a personal assistant, the Automator automatically performs any already programmed activities and notifies you when things occur. All you need to do is establish rules and let the Automator do the rest.
- Social network: This feature includes comment sections and forums where you may ask questions or look for reviews on signal providers.
- ZuluScript: This feature is akin to expert advisors of MetaTrader, so offering a chance to automate trades.
- ZuluGuard: This function automatically manages your account and the performance of traders you follow without your online presence.
Like MetaTrader, ZuluTrade is also connected with a calendar to help you fast access the globe’s financial events.
It is impossible to conclude that NinjaTrader is a completely free trading platform. Those investing in fiat currencies, cryptos, stocks and futures are entitled to access cost-effective features such as charts and market analysis, whether they open a position on a real trading environment or simulation. Even when you would like to receive live market data for free, you can register for email notifications on the website. Despite being deemed as a multi-asset platform that eases the trading activities of forex and futures traders, you need a supporting broker to speculate on equities.
As NinjaTrader aims at offering services to active traders, the company requires users to lease its software or buy a lifetime license to approach an unlimited number of premium features, for example:
- ATM Strategies: This function automatically submits protective stop-loss and profit target orders through pre-configured conditions and rules. Accordingly, it removes emotions out of trading.
- One Cancels One (OCO) orders: When one order is filled, other positions are automatically canceled.
- Customized indicators, drawing tools, trading strategies and so forth.
- Backtesting & Automated trading built on the C# based framework.
One downside of the platform is the provision of no mobile trading apps. Only the desktop-based version is offered and constantly updated to foster user experience. This turns out to be inconvenient for those who prefer trading on the go and whenever they can.
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