Meta Trader and cTrader a Comparison
2,000 3,000 Words – Written by a real trader!
Since MetaTrader 4 was first launched into the trading environment back in 2005, it’s developer Metaquotes has dominated the retail foreign exchange (FX) trading landscape ever since. Its dominance has been founded on simple software design and incremental software improvements that have delivered improved functionality almost year-on-year since 2005.
MetaTrader has outshone all other retail trading platforms and has even encroached into the realms of other asset classes such as CFD’s and futures.
Despite MetaTrader 4 now being 11 years old at the time of writing, it is still by far the most used trading platform by retail FX traders. Over the past few years, a number of other software companies have launched their own trading platforms hoping to challenge the dominance of the MetaTrader 4 and 5 platforms. One of the most formidable challengers is Spotware’s cTrader platform which has become a serious contender.
In this article we take a look at how the cTrader platform compares to both MetaTrader 4 and 5 platforms, and discuss whether it’s worth making the move over to the cTrader platform.
To relay our perceptions of the two trading platforms, we have decided to structure the comparison according to four major aspects:
1. Charting and Indicators
The MetaTrader 4 & 5 platforms (MT4 and MT5 for short) are favoured by many traders because of the professional look and feel, as well as the extensive range of professional features that come as standard. The platform supports a wide range of indicators which can be customised by the user and easily added and removed from the charts bundled with the software.
Both MT4 and its recent successor MT5, provide a full set of charting tools and features and both allow users access to a wide spectrum of third-party add-ons in the form of scripts, expert advisors (trading robots) and customised chart analysis capability via MQL.
What are the differences between MetaTrader 4 and 5?
Bear in mind that both versions of MetaTrader receive regular updates automatically delivered by Metaquotes to all users, brokers and their white-label partners directly through the platform.
As a result, the set of features for both platforms is regularly changing and users should consult their broker or visit various online self-help pages at www.mql.com for the latest updates to MT4 and MT5 features. As a handy tip, make you have noted your platform version number, which can be found in the Help>About menu — when scouring forums or looking for information online.
Some of the major differences are:
cTrader developed by Spotware came onto the trading scene only in 2011. Within 5 years this ‘MetaTrader killer’ has taken a significant chunk out of the retail trading market to the extent that several brokers now offer both cTrader and MetaTrader to clients.
Understandably, cTrader has tried to improve upon MetaTrader’s faults given its late release date by comparison. The platform looks and feels sleeker, and is noticeably more modern in terms of both aesthetic looks and functionality. cTrader also sports more order types and a sleeker and more intuitive platform navigation.
The interface is clean and there is not a great deal of noticeable difference between cTrader and other retail platforms including MetaTrader. This is especially the case for beginners. The same features such as charts, trade logging, account management tools, back testing and technical indicators are all available.
2. Automated Trading & Back-Testing
Part of the reason why the MetaTrader platforms have enjoyed such a prolonged period of dominance is the support they provide for those wanting to automatically trade the financial markets using EA’s. However, the cTrader package supports both automated trading and strategy testing, giving traders a real alternative to MetaTrader.
MT4 and MT5 support Expert Advisors, or automated algorithms, that trade on the clients behalf. These EA’s can even be bought, sold and exchanged like commodities in and of themselves.
Metatrader scripts are written in MQL4 or MQL5 respectively, with the unique MetaTrader scripting language borrowing heavily from the C family of programming languages.
This means that MQL4/5 are very powerful and can be used to create quite sophisticated trading programs. While the power of the MQL4/5 languages is quite impressive, learning to program sophisticated trading systems is something that will likely prove very challenging to those that haven’t had previous programming experience.
NOTE: MT4 and MT5 use different programming languages — MT4 uses MQL4, MT5 uses MQL 5.
This means that all EA’s, scripts and custom indicators coded in MQL for use on MT4 will not be portable/transferable to MT5. Everything must be re-written.
There’ is currently no smooth way to convert any of the features from one platform to another, thereby conjuring up the wrath of the online trading community, quick to voice its displeasure with MetaQuotes.
Even those who have experience with C++ like programming languages are likely to find writing their own Expert Advisors somewhat challenging, though experienced programmers should be able to pick up the language quite quickly using the documentation provided by MetaQuotes.
Thankfully, it possible to build Expert Advisors without learning MQL4/5 as there are a number of tools which allow you to build EA’s without having any knowledge of programing.
Typically, these options limit the complexity of the trading programs you can build, though it is still possible to build sophisticated trading algorithms (Read : How to Build An Expert Advior ). There are also a number of companies and programmers offering their services to build Expert Advisors to custom specifications — for a price.
There are also a large number of commercial Expert Advisors being sold by providers who claim that their programs can help traders make money from the Forex market. It is crucial to conduct sufficient due diligence of any such company or trading signals vendor, as the Forex industry has unfortunately attracted unsavoury and unscrupulous companies not amenable to best commercial practise.
Very often, the commercial EA’s being advertised do not live up to their marketing hype and after some initial small gains, there are eventually large losses that cripple the trading account. (Read: Commercial Expert Advisors ).
Like its main rival, the cTrader platform also comes with support for automated trading and back-testing.
Spotware supports algorithmic and automated trading via it’s cAlgo platform, widely available to anyone with a cTrader account. Trading robots for the cTrader platform are written in C#, a popular object orientated programming language with a large number of dedicated programmers. While C# is a powerful programming language, it may not be easy for the newcomer to pick up straight away and unlike MetaTrader, there are currently no tools available for those who want to build custom cAlgo programs from scratch.
The cAlgo platform does allow users to modify existing indicators and programs in a way which makes it relatively easy for those not well versed in programming to create useful trading tools.
As with the MetaTrader platform it is also possible to utilise a growing developer community online for help in creating a custom cAlgo robot according to any desired specifications. However, given the cTrader’s relative novelty there are currently many fewer programmers working on cAlgo’s than MetaTrader EA’s.
Some third-party tools have been developed allowing EA’s built for MT4 and MT5 to be converted to the cTrader platform, although these are still being developed and have not been perfected. For a reliable EA or cAlgo robot, it remains the standard practise to rewrite the code from scratch.
cTrader allows back-testing features using historical data which is expandable at the user’s behest. in a very similar way to the MetaTrader platform. Again this is a relatively easy and with some small tweaks it’s possible to generate accurate back-tests to establish whether you want to proceed with forward testing of your trading robots.
3. Depth of Market Functionality
One feature that has invaded the retail trading industry, is one that has been borrowed from the Futures markets: Depth of Market.
Depth of market provides information as to how many orders are being queued at any particular price. By seeing how many orders there are, and where — traders are able to attain a supreme edge over other traders that are unaware of prevailing order placement in that market.
Depth of Market provides traders with information about the amount of buy and sell orders at each particular price level. This information is useful for traders who want scalp, feel out the market and place large ticket orders. Increasingly, traders are demanding platforms which allow them to see the Depth of Market.
MT4 was first released with no inbuilt Depth of Market tool, which meant that traders using a STP/ECN brokerage could not see any Depth of Market (DOM) data unless the brokerage made it available or provided third-party plug-in. This is something which really lets down the MetaTrader 4 platform.
MetaTrader 5 became the first platform from MetaQuotes to introduce Depth of Market functionality as standard. The platform allows traders to open a ladder which shows the amount of liquidity at each price level, and allows traders to place orders at different levels. This improvement was welcomed by many users of the platform, though it has to be said that MetaTrader’s DOM functionality is pretty rudimentary and simple. It is a far cry from professional-grade depth of market typically found on Futures trading platforms such as Ninja Trader.
cTrader is much more sophisticated when it comes to Depth of Market functionality, with the platform giving its users the opportunity to see the full range of executable prices from a brokers liquidity providers. The VWAP view allows traders to get a feel of what price they will get for large orders which might not be entirely filled at one price. Under testing, cTrader didn’t have any problems managing partial fills although this is largely broker-dependent. Overall, the Depth of Market functionality included within the cTrader platform is pretty advanced and is likely to suit all trading styles.
he MetaTrader platform is very widely available. In fact, a number of brokerages offer the platform as their only option to traders, with the platform also being available in mobile formats allowing traders to manage their positions while on the move.
This makes it easy to find a brokerage who offers either MT4 or MT5, and MT4 remains by far the most widely-used. This is due to the fact that not all brokerages have picked up licences for MT5 which costs considerably more and is not a major selling point for many retail FX traders. One huge gripe has been the disabling of hedging capability on MT5 despite this being a requirement only in the US.
The vast majority of brokers will offer MT4/MT5 even if they have their own proprietary platform operating alongside it. MT4 has been a hit with retail traders, and retail brokerages have been forced to take notice. Brokers that do have their own proprietary platform will typically provide a ‘bridge’ for its platform to interface with MetaTrader, as part of a value-add service for clients and for financial reporting/risk management requirements.
Currently, the cTrader platform from Spotware is not widely available but an increasing number of brokerages are beginning to offer its clientele the opportunity to use cTrader. The platform is particularly popular with ECN/STP brokerages due to the Depth of Market functionality built into the cTrader offering. While not all brokerages offer the platform a number of well known brokerages such as FxPro, Admiral Markets, Liquid Markets and others offer the platform to their customers.
Comparison Summary – cTrader VS Metatrader – Bottom Line
It may just depend on personal preference when it comes to choosing which platform to opt for. Users focused on EAs may be drawn to MT4 due to its wider availability, more online resources and larger online community. Other traders will be drawn to cTrader by the greater ability to make modifications to the interface and more advanced order options. Trial periods with each one are a must for anyone considering live trading with MT4/MT5 or cTrader (or other trading platform for that matter). Asking which trading platform is better than the rest is like asking which car is the best. The right answer is the platform/car that does the job you need it to.
For newbie traders, both MT4 and cTrader will carry out all their requirements, so the differences are largely cosmetic and logistical in terms of programming language and availability of a diverse development community.
Here’s our summary of all the important features that may help you decide:
There is in-fact very little to separate these two platforms, with both boasting impressive functionality and performance in live trading conditions.However, the wider availability of the MetaTrader platform is likely to mean that the majority of development when it comes to automated trading strategies, commonly known as robots, is likely to be carried out with MetaTrader in mind as opposed to cTrader.
On the other hand, the cTrader platform is likely to appeal to those looking for a rich depth of market experience that could be especially appealing to short-term scalpers.
cTrader is a genuine alternative to MetaTrader, but MetaTrader doesn’t necessarily need an alternative unless you are very picky.
Either way, you won’t really know or understand the difference until you try them both:
- OPEN MT4 DEMO ACCOUNT — LIVE ACCOUNT
- OPEN MT 5 DEMO ACCOUNT — LIVE ACCOUNT
- OPEN cTrader DEMO ACCOUNT — LIVE ACCOUNT
Additional read about Metatrader VS cTrader:
Catering to varying and shifting needs, trading platforms are constantly being modified and provided with new additions and tweaks.
Foreign exchange brokers are utilising the latest advances in IT, and have helped to generate a new industry in itself — Fintech — financial technology that streamlines how buyers and sellers come together; and saving every counterparty cash in the process.
The latest batch of updates do not focus on improving charting or order execution.
Instead, modern Fintech companies are helping platforms such as MT4 and cTrader make strides into a new dawn of trading which includes social media interaction, multi-device trading in real-time and crowd-sourcing applications that make trading an entirely different experience to what it was, perhaps even just 15 years ago.
Features that newbie traders have welcomed most include cloud-stored workspaces. With cloud-based services becoming increasingly prolific and widely used, both cTrader and MT4 now offer users the ability to save multiple workspace in their entirety in the ‘cloud’, and capable of being retrieved at any time on any device. In 2016, this includes mobile phones, tablets, PC’s and Mac’s.
This particular feature is most useful for traders who access their account on multiple devices or trade from multiple locations.
One of the most important aspects for traders is the ability to accurately measure, track and analyse their own trading performance. Both MT4 and cTrader provide a rich set of tools to help traders with their own self-analysis and risk management.
Research shows that the most successful traders are those who do extensive self-analysis and evaluation. So although these platforms provide the tools traders need, traders must want to use them effectively which always take time, effort and dedication. These traits are often very difficult to collate together at the best of times — doing so in a trading environment oozing with multiple other factors that could cause sudden panic and stress, becomes a truly challenging endeavour.