Tradestation
Trading Platform Review

Tradestation is a fantastic platform with a large variety of features including some of the best charting functions out there. It is quite sophisticated and can scan securities for specific chart patterns for instance that you might normally look for manually to enter trades. 

If you want to use this platform for actual live trading you must open a brokerage account with Tradestation. Otherwise, only simluated trading is available to you AND at a hefty price...

The platform supports trading of all asset classes. It is quite intuitive and can be customized extensively. It supports easylanguage which is essentially a simplified programming language for traders without specialized computer training. It allows you to easily create trading strategies/indicators but more on that later! Ultimately, it offers quite useful extensive features to optimize your trading strategy.

Asset Classes     All

Ease of Use     3.5/5

Charting     5/5

Value for Money     3/5

Customer Support     3/5

Cost

The trading software is very robust and costs a lot of money on a monthly basis. Good news though – if you open up an account with them, the trading platform is free...kind of....

Your account must meet minimum criteria*, otherwise Tradestation will charge you $100 per month. This is a big monthly fee you definitely want to avoid.

Brokerage Client:           Free*
Software Subscriber:      $249.95/month (simulated trading only)

Minimum Criteria*

If you want FREE use of the platform,
your trading activity must be at least the following minimums for the previous month

Equities: 5,000 shares 
Futures: 10 round turns
Options: 50 contracts

Obviously this also means you must have a brokerage account with them. 

OR if you only have a Forex account there is no charge,

OR you can "simply" hold $100,000 in your account…

These restrictions make it apparent that Tradestation definitely caters to active traders

Additional Costs

Before you getting excited about being able to use one of the most common trader platforms for free, you should know of some additional costs.

Add-Ons to Platform

Firstly, certain functions on the platform cost a monthly fee. Specifically..

Radarscreen             $59.95/month
Portfolio Maestro   $59.95/month

Once again, these are free if you meet the minimum criteria noted above. They are proprietary features specific to Tradestation. See below for more details on these features. 

RadarScreen:

Radarscreen can keep track of a 1000 securities real time data so you don't need a ton of chart windows open. It can also notify you immediately and even automate orders as alerts are generated.

You can easily sort and create lists. WIth a few clicks you can have all the stocks in the S&P 500 on one watchlist and have radar screen alert you based on predefined settings for all those stocks. You can create multiple lists to keep track of various markets. 


Portfolio Maestro:

You can create a strategy on the platform by defining various criteria. Portfolio Maestro allows you to actually combine multiple strategies that you have created into one portfolio and then back test the entire portfolio. This way you can see how a combination of your strategies would perform. 

At the portfolio level, you can set portfolio-wise constraints to manage exposure and limit downside risk. Very robust back-testing software!

Market Data

Tradestation offers some of the lowest commissions in the industry. That does come at a price though - if you want any sort of charts populating with data, you will need to subscribe to their data feeds. (Regardless if you want to trade live or just want to use the platform for paper trading).

Depending on what you trade you will need to subscribe to multiple feeds which have a monthly fee. 

You can view the all the data fees here.

Before you start freaking out at the LONG list of data fees - let me just break it down for you plain and simple

If you trade..

Equities

  • It'll cost you $3/month to get Level 1 real time data for NYSE, AMEX, and NASDAQ stocks. That pretty much covers the world of equities for you. 
  • If you really want market depth (Level II) this is where it can get a bit more expensive - looking at another $40 approx.

    First, you must pay for "Enhanced Market Depth" which is $20/month and then you can subscribe to NASDAQ Totalview (the typical service that offers Level II information for NYSE, AMEX and NASDAQ) and that is another $16/month.

Options

  • $3/month

Futures

  • There is a value bundle for $20 giving access to all futures exchange. However, this doesn't give you market depth which most futures traders use - without it you are behind the curve. If you want this you have to add another $5 per exchange.

    If you trade indices that would be CME exchange but if you also want to trade crude oil that is NYMEX so that is another exchange. 

    Overall I'd say this is quite pricey - you can go to a dedicated broker which just offers futures and you are likely to get a way better deal on data. Some might even offer it for free.

Forex

  • Free

Advantages

General

  • Very robust and comprehensive platform (if platforms were cars - this would be a Ferrari)

  • Supports multiple desktop workstations  - each of your monitors can have its own workstation

    Typically most platforms allow one workstation to be open with multiple windows. Tradestation gives you ease of having predefined work stations (with specific windows set in a customized layout) for each monitor).   

  • Active trader community  can exchange information, ideas and learn about the platform 

  • Training materials - home study courses, video courses on their proprietary programming language.
    This language is a lot easier to learn than C++ or Java, but videos help with the learning curve.

  • Can handle large number of real-time screens tracking hundreds of securities without slowing down

  • More than 40+ years of historical data

  • Phone, e-mail, live chat support. 

  • Sell your strategies/indicators - after creating your own indicator or strategy you can actually put it up and sell it to the TradeStation community and make some extra money!

Charting

  • 13 types of chart styles
    Traditional: OHLC, Candlestick, Line, etc.
    Exotic: Kagi, Point & Figure, Range, Renko, etc. 

  • 100+ indicators

  • Alerts - Can set up your own visual and/or audio alerts
    Usually all platforms have audio alerts, but TradeStation can also spot visual patterns and alert you to these with, for example, circles (IMAGE - printscreen tutorial)

  • Chart Trading - you can trade directly off the chart.  Easily initiate orders off the chart just by clicking on it, set up bracket orders, can visually see stops/target orders which you can click and drag to change. 

  • Pattern recognition - has the power to recognize chart patterns across an entire market. See RadarScreen below - Tradestation's proprietary software.

Analysis

  • Scanner - 500+ fundamental fields to screen for, scan create customized criteria with EasyLanguage. Very comprehensive - can scan an indicator at a 5-minute interval while viewing fundamental data at daily interval.

    Can scan preset trading strategies. If you want to trade "Dogs of the Dow" strategy just click and drag the strategy into a window and it will immediately display the top 10 dividend yield stocks of the Dow. Can also track which ones have been added and removed. 

  • Build your own strategies, back-test on data from several decades. Can automate these strategies.

  • Easylanguage - Tradestation's programming code which you can use to code your own trade strategies. can share and sell your work via tradestations app store.

    Have various courses on programming both free and ones with a fee. Very helpful if you want to start developing your own strategies or scan for securities based on criteria you develop. Download the guide here

  • Great trade management - You can see all orders you ever placed and real-time status of all your open positions. Moreover, you cna also analyze performance seeing your gains/losses on your portfolio and/or specific positions. 

Unique Features

RadarScreen:

RadarScreen can keep track of a 1000 securities real time data so you don't need a ton of chart windows open. It can also notify you immediately and even automate orders as alerts are generated.

You can easily sort and create lists. WIth a few clicks you can have all the stocks in the S&P 500 on one watchlist and have radar screen alert you based on predefined settings for all those stocks. You can create multiple lists to keep track of various markets. 

Awesome feature: RadarScreen has to power to recognize chart patterns across an entire market! Like the hammer candlestick pattern? It can pull up all stocks exhibiting such price action!

For example if you like to trade a hammer pattern. It can pull up all stocks that show this candlestick pattern making it a lot easier for you to weed out stocks that do not fit your predefined charting criteria.

This is huge since many times traders go through hundreds of charts themselves to find these patterns. Now a computer does it for you! I haven't encountered trading platforms that offer such a feature. 

Portfolio Maestro:

You can create a strategy on the platform by defining various criteria. Portfolio Maestro allows you to actually combine multiple strategies that you have created into one portfolio and then back test the entire portfolio. This way you can see how a combination of your strategies would perform. 

At the portfolio level, you can set portfolio-wide constraints to manage exposure and limit downside risk.

Very robust back-testing software!

Usually you would only back-test one strategy and not a portfolio with a combination of them. 

Walk-Forward Optimizer

This feature creates a set of different time slices to create "unseen market data" simulating unpredictability. This helps determine whether your strategy is profitable on "new" data. 
simiulates your strategy against different time slices. test robustness using different parameters. 


OptionStation Pro

TradeStation created a separate platform for options. It makes advanced order entry very easy to execute complex trading strategies.

You can create theoretical spread with a couple clicks and then also view the probability cone showing distribution of gains/losses. You can easily see risk/reward potential of an option trade. 

To go from a theoretical position to a real one its just one click to execute. 

Also very simple to analyze not only combination of options together but can then separate it and look at each one individually. 

Disadvantages

  • Cost - general opinion, including mine is that this platform is quite costly if you don't meet monthly minimum criteria (shown above). Can be hard to meet these criteria unless you day trade actively. 

  • If you ever decide to switch brokers, you will have to learn a new platform. 

    This can be quite time consuming and perhaps you will feel stuck and end up sticking with TradeStation due to the time investment, even if it might no longer be the best option. 

  • Lacks on web-based trading software. The desktop software is amazing but if you want to trade from their web-based platform when you are not at home it is missing a lot of the features. 

  • Due to the platform features and options it can be overwhelming to learn as a beginner. Having said this, if you are willing to learn the details it can be a great benefit in realizing the platform's potential.  

Final Thoughts on TradeStation Platform

This platform has all the bells and whistles you need to day trade. It is very well known in the trading community as it supports both retail and institutional clients. 

If you are not an active trader this things might cost you a crapload of money. You have to meet minimum criteria monthly in trades otherwise you will get dinged $100 or potentially $160 if you have the RadarScreen/Portfolio Maestro features. 

Review the broker section to get an idea of commissions and other details. You can only use this platform if Tradestation is your broker.

Potential suggestion: Since commissions are not the best, some traders execute the minimum 10 futures trades (not too difficult to do) and get the platform for free, but then they use other broker's for cheaper commissions. 

If you are serious about day trading - this can be a great day trading platform for you!


› Tradestation