TradeStation Versus Thinkorswim
I get a lot of requests like this:
I see you are doing some indicators now on TradeStation. How are you liking their platform compared to TOS (Think or Swim)?
So let me share my experiences in an organized format:
I actually moved the majority of my trading activity over to TradeStation in spring of 2012. At the time, the platform fees were a big hurdle. But I talked to a salesperson and they agreed to waive the platform fees, for life. Which was just enough to pull me over.
Now I see they have eliminated the platform fees altogether.
I immediately went to work porting over all my custom code from Thinkorswim. So I have actually been writing stuff for TradeStation for the past 5 years. I am just now beginning to make those public. I am right now in the process of generating a similar library of free custom tools for TradeStation. Taking from the most popular of my Thinkorswim Videos. Along with that I will be replicating them to SierraChart where possible. Prepare for an explosion of new content.
Robust Development Environment
The development environment is a bit more advanced on TradeStation. Which is good and bad. The good is that we have so much more we can do on the platform. The bad is that it’s more challenging for technical novices to build their own custom tools. So from that perspective, Thinkorswim is easier to code. But it’s more restrictive in what we can do.
Trade Execution and Cost
From a traders perspective, it’s really tough to beat. Lightening fast with low CPU and memory usage. Trading commissions are much lower. For the active trader, the lower commissions more than make up for the fact you have to pay for market data. Only problem is you need Windows in order to run it. Thinkorswim runs on Mac, Linux and Windows. (my dream is to be completely rid of Windows someday)
This is where Thinkorswim still shines. They do a really great job of cramming it full of nearly everything you could imagine to research and manage options trades. TradeStation is mediocre at best. You have to opt for OptionStation Pro in order to even get a risk/reward graph. And it’s pretty clumsy to use. Trading of futures options only recently become reasonably efficient on TradeStation, after they restructured their futures accounts. Previously, in order to trade futures options on TradeStation you had to open a separate account. If you wanted to trade a married put on ES, you had to execute your futures contract in one account, and the put in the other account. That was a real mess. Glad to see TradeStation address that.
RadarScreen versus Watchlists
Wow, the difference is like night and day. The RadarScreen on TradeStation supports everything you can do in a chart. You can actually create chart indicators that ‘know’ when they are applied to a RadarScreen and automatically adapt to that format. To get an idea of what’s possible, be sure to check out my demo video: TradeStation Divergence Lines Indicator Beginning at the 28:28 mark.
Strategies and Back Testing
Double wow. You guys are going to be blown away when I begin publishing free tools for strategies and back testing on TradeStation. This platform fully supports auto-trading. The scary part is, you can auto-trade with even the most basic strategies. So anything I publish, viewers will be able to implement as a full-blown auto-trading system. I’m going to have to take great steps to warn and educate viewers so they don’t get themselves in trouble. I have barely scratched the surface of what is possible, but I learn quickly. I’ve already completed a custom strategy on TradeStation for one of my Thinkorswim clients.
Here is a another area where TradeStation excels. The scan engine on TradeStation supports unlimited historical data (prefetch). Which means we can reliably scan on intraday time frames using indicators that make use of exponential moving averages. For TradeStation scans, it is also possible to write custom code. Which you will see at the 41:13 mark of : TradeStation Divergence Lines Indicator .
Here it seems to me that Thinkorswim has the edge over TradeStation. Each provides something unique the other lacks. However Thinkorswim makes it super easy to place trades on options, including spreads. I really like that Thinkorswim enables me to save multiple chart styles . So I can quickly thumb through various time frames or indicators for the selected symbol. Thinkorswim mobile also supports custom studies and watchlist columns . While TradeStation permits you to place drawing tools on their charts. For TradeStation mobile, I don’t see much more than that to get excited about. But I’m sure I’ll uncover some golden nugget when I get around to publishing demos on the TradeStation mobile app. Stay tuned!