TradeStation® Powers Trading Strategies


Simpler Trading Team

17 min read

Jump to a Topic:

  1. What is TradeStation®?
  2. Trading Technology
  3. Getting Started with TradeStation®
  4. Features & Benefits

Experienced traders like working with TradeStation®.

New traders, not so much.

Until they understand what it does.

When you’re considering which software you want to use for market analysis and executing trading strategies, TradeStation software is the thoroughbred that can turn your trading efforts into a winning race for profits.

The reasons why traders prefer or avoid TradeStation become clear once you delve into the robust investing and analytical power of this trading platform.

Someone not well-versed in trading could sit in front of a monitor displaying TradeStation and would likely feel as lost as sitting in the cockpit of a commercial airliner. New or inexperienced traders will have a steep learning curve with TradeStation.

Active, seasoned traders are likely already using it – many for several decades – as their main trading platform or in combination with another.

Let’s see what it takes to saddle up and ride with this dynamic TradeStation platform.


What is TradeStation?

A TradeStation review wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging that it is more than just a simple tool for trading. TradeStation provides cutting-edge trading technology and online electronic brokerage services.

It’s available to independent retail traders and professional or institutional trainers worldwide. The platform provides real-time access to all major U.S. exchanges and market centers for equities, ETFs, futures, options, Forex, mutual funds, and bonds. Other investment opportunities include leveraged ETFs, cannabis stocks, and bitcoin futures.

TradeStation doesn’t stop developing new opportunities and support. Crypto trading and additional options on futures are in the works along with an artificial intelligence-enhanced experience for traders.

For current investment opportunities, TradeStation delivers a seemingly endless array of offerings that support trading. Traders can take control of their trading research and strategies through TradeStation with custom testing, charting, optimization, and monitoring of trades.

History of TradeStation

TradeStation has been around in some form since the dawn of personal computers (first started in 1982 as Omega Research) and is widely recognized as the first desktop software product for traders.

Since its early beginnings, the company worked to develop trading support for non-technical people. Founders Bill and Ralph Cruz, brothers originally from Cuba, wanted individual traders to be able to trade more like institutional traders who had access to powerful and costly mainframe computers.

Combining the advent of personal computers with software tools began to bridge the gap between individuals and professional traders.

Leveling the playing field in trading is the classic struggle of David vs. Goliath that retail traders continue to face in a world dominated by institutional traders.

Omega Research continued advancing the cause of everyday traders by releasing System Writer in 1987. This is the first desktop software for individual traders. System Writer enabled traders to develop and test their own trading strategies against historical market data.

It also allowed users to program buy and sell alerts into the software. System Writer continued to improve with innovative charting features.

In 1991 Omega Research released TradeStation, the first real-time version of the software. An online version of the product was released in 2000, and in 2001 Omega Research renamed itself to TradeStation.

This coincided with the company transition from a software company for traders to an online securities brokerage.

TradeStation continued to grow and, in 2004 and 2005, pivoted into a complete brokerage services firm offering trading in equities, options, and futures. The company continued to expand its financial trading offerings through the 2008-2009 market losses. Its goal has always been to improve the odds for traders and help them gain more control over financial investments.

In 2018 TradeStation version 10 was released. This latest advancement boasted a more user-friendly interface and added an array of analysis elements along with even faster trading tools.

TradeStation is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of one of Japan’s largest online financial service providers, Monex Group, Inc.

Each step in TradeStation’s evolution was a milestone leading to its current status as the “thoroughbred” among trading software backed by extensive brokerage services.

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State-Of-The-Art Trading Technology

Steeped in its history of setting new standards for technological innovation, TradeStation continues to power its way to new heights with the latest versions of its trading software.

There are all the expected analysis tools with updated trading tools that stand out against any in the trading software arena.

Desktop Platform

TradeStation upped the ante in trading tools with its latest desktop version.

At the top of the analysis options is TradeStation Charting. This is designed to be intuitive and customizable for individual preferences. Visual and audio alerts help traders chart equities on any time frame or market activity with the goal of catching all potential trades.

Hot lists for market moves, volume spikes, and volatility events can be updated every 30 seconds within the platform. Combined with market depth and insights, TradeStation works to seek out big-money orders in the markets while following events and news.

Information is vital to any trader. TradeStation incorporates Benzinga (a financial media outlet catering to traders) to deliver institutional-grade news and event updates – all sorted by market or symbol.

This all ties into research covering 1,700 fundamental data points for every AMEX, NYSE, and NASDAQ stock. A customizable scanner is included to track any equity in the entire realm of symbols.

Traders strive to keep all information directly in front of them and the Matrix window allows TradeStation users to combine important details into a single view. Detailed market depth, an advanced order entry tool, and an order tracking system can be viewed in one window.

Traders can hunt down trading opportunities with RadarScreen as it continuously monitors and ranks up to 1,000 symbols in real time. Traders can set their own custom guides for tracking more than 180 technical and fundamental indicators.

Options traders get a big boost within TradeStation. Options constantly move fast and traders require informative and responsive trading information and analysis.

OptionStation Pro is an innovation that TradeStation boasts will allow traders to visualize the options market like never before. This premium tool supports traders’ needs to manage and track positions in the market using customized indicators and strategies to win trades.

Premium tools – Matrix, RadarScreen, OptionStation Pro – are included in the desktop platform.
The desktop platform is only available for PC users and the no-cost TradeStation download is available with all new accounts. Mac OS users can run the software through a Windows emulator.

Mobile and Browser Platforms

On-the-go access to trading accounts and markets has advanced considerably in the last few years. TradeStation has delivered versatile connections to traders through its mobile and browser platforms.

Traders want certain essentials in their trading software: charting tools, alerts, fast order execution, trade ideas, and accurate order management.

TradeStation mobile delivers these essential tools for stocks, options, and futures. Traders can execute positions in the palm of their hand while on the run and receive an alert when an order is filled. You can tap into order history, earnings alerts, and news about market movement or news while mobile.

Favorite charting tools, such as indicators – Fibonacci, moving averages, trend lines, and more – are easily managed in the mobile app. Simple buy and sell trades, along with complicated iron condors or butterflies, can be executed with a few touches on a mobile screen.

The TradeStation app is available for iOS and Android devices. It can be downloaded in the Apple App Store or Google Play for Android.

In instances where traders find themselves away from their desktop or no app service, they can log into TradeStation through popular web browsers and an internet connection.

The browser platform has essential features found in the desktop version and provides real-time data access with one-click trade execution. TradeStation can be accessed through FireFox, Chrome, Explorer/Edge, and Safari.

This delivers secure account log-in for users on Mac or PC systems.

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Taking Stock of Costs and Getting Started with TradeStation

How you get started with TradeStation is heavily dependent on your level of trading experience. Key to any success is your willingness to invest in the platform financially and from a learning viewpoint.

One of the drawbacks to TradeStation for novice traders is that, to gain access to a full review or use of the product, you will have to pay money. Anyone searching for the best free trading software will discover there is no free TradeStation demo for the full trading software.

Opening a brokerage account requires $500 TradeStation minimum deposit (considerably less than years past). Accounts then follow the TradeStation fees and commissions structure of the securities being traded.

Fees include:

TradeStation Pricing Table

Other instruments include mutual funds at $14.95 per trade and bonds (government, corporate, municipal) at $14.95, plus $5 per bond.

Fees for stocks, ETFs, options, and futures are in line with costs from other brokers while mutual funds and bonds are considered high against competition.

There are other pricing tiers available for stocks, ETFs, options, and futures based on individual trading needs, i.e. trading in more volume. Traders need to check current TradeStation pricing to determine accurate fees and TradeStation commissions and full details on all costs.

Data Intense Option

Traders who just want the power of TradeStation’s data without opening a brokerage account can sign up for TradeStation Analytics. This has all the essential functions of the desktop platform without being able to make trades in the markets. Traders can use all the premium tools, charting, and data to follow the markets.

Analytics also includes the web and mobile interfaces along with access to TradeStation’s historical markets database.

TradeStation Analytics is available for $99 per month for non-professional traders and $199 per month for professional traders. Double-check for latest pricing.

Required minimums to open an account or monthly fees for informative data can be a deterrent for anyone wanting to try TradeStation before committing money.

The only “free” review option of TradeStation is within the mobile app. Traders can download the app and select “program review” which provides limited access to the mobile platform.

This allows traders to interact with some of the features of TradeStation without any financial commitment.

Demo or No Demo?

All is not lost when trying to “try before you buy” with TradeStation despite no free desktop platform demo.

Curious traders can click on the education link on the main web site and watch the nearly one-hour getting started video. The video reviews the basics of TradeStation so you can experience the integration of the software with the markets, charts, historical data, pricing, etc.

TradeStation cost can be an issue, but it does offer public information through its website and the Market Insights section. This area contains educational articles and videos, a blog, and a podcast updated regularly. There is a variety of information available here from across the securities markets and information on how to use TradeStation more effectively.

New Client Opportunities

TradeStation representatives were open when discussing past difficulties with newer traders attempting to use the trading platform. They’ve been working for years to lessen the reputation of serving mostly “power” users while also creating a less intimidating trading platform for traders with limited experience or finances.

The company’s goal in attracting new clients is to help them get started successfully and continue to support clients as they grow with the company.

Creating a brokerage services account is often like getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist – necessary, but who enjoys it?

TradeStation put together a reduced application process with simple access through desktop, web, or mobile. The application is shorter and deposits are easily transferred to gain funding faster.

The goal is to get traders using the software within their platform of choice while limiting the pain of getting started.

TradeStation syncs accounts between platforms so traders can conduct most of their trading on the desktop platform while managing their account via the mobile app as needed. You can place orders, set alerts, chart the markets, track orders, and manage your account from anywhere there is an internet connection.

It’s not uncommon for traders to conduct most of their trading actions from the mobile app.
TradeStation has answered calls to improve customer service. Online chat, email, or telephone support is available for new and existing clients across all platforms.

Newer traders can saddle up and start learning TradeStation at their own speed thanks to the education and support options.

There is a wealth of information through TradeStation University online. Helpful articles, videos, and more deliver insight into how the different platforms work and provide needed education for traders. TradeStation prides itself on presenting more than 300 webinars each year along with in-person master class events and more than 1,000 YouTube videos.

To avoid becoming overwhelmed with information, newer traders should consider learning the basics of TradeStation software and how it interacts with the markets. Then, expand trading efforts as you gain confidence.

Veteran traders can dig in their spurs and go head-long into the complexities of TradeStation as a powerful trading platform.

EasyLanguage is the proprietary technology in TradeStation that enables traders to create their own custom indicators and strategies. Usually used by advanced traders, these custom tools can then be back-tested against the historical database amassed over decades. EasyLanguage was designed for traders, not computer engineers, so it opens new realms of tracking and analyzing the markets.

Couple this customization with continuous, real-time monitoring of symbols; customizable charting, hot lists for market movers and volatility events; advanced order-entry and order-tracking system; along with a complete options analysis system and it’s easy to understand the workhorse that is TradeStation.

Learning and applying the capabilities of TradeStation means traders of various skill levels can race into the markets at lightning speed.

The caution here is to make sure you know your skill level before trying wrangle this thoroughbred of trading platforms.

Too much horse and not enough skill leads to trouble.

Critical Reviews and Future Reliability

Despite being a virtual race horse among trading platforms, TradeStation reviews indicate it is not without its critics.

It has the software power and historical data that rivals or exceeds anything available, but doesn’t serve everyone in the markets.

TradeStation still faces a thorny reputation of not being easily accessible most commonly due to the initial or ongoing costs.

An initial deposit is acceptable in opening a trading account, but it’s a deterrent to anyone wanting to just check out the platform. There is also a considerably steep learning curve to master and apply the power of TradeStation, sometimes even for experienced investors.

Comparing TradeStation against other trading platforms is often misleading because many others promote themselves as “low-cost” alternatives. Traders tend to look at commissions and fees versus the overall ability of the platform to deliver effective trading analysis, data, and trade execution.

A more accurate peer comparison would be against competitor thinkorswim®.

Thinkorswim is a comparable rival because it has no account minimum to get started. It provides competitive research and trading tools suitable for investors just starting their journey up to more demanding professional traders. Thinkorswim is also part of securities brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, a large company in trading circles.

Investigate any trading software outside TradeStation vs thinkorswim and you’ll discover promotional or reviewer claims of “low-cost,” “easy to use,” etc. But what we always tell anyone considering the sincerity of such claims is to guard yourself against the hype by diligently evaluating the validity of the claims and effectiveness of the product.

TradeStation continues to garner recognition from market-watching financial publications. Barron’s rated TradeStation at the top five of online brokers in 2019 and Investor’s Business Daily ranked them in the top three.

Against all comparisons, TradeStation delivers as the long-standing, reliable trading platform backed by intuitive trading tools and mountains of market data. The platform is backed by a complete brokerage service and years of proven success. It’s been the choice of professional traders for decades and that status won’t be upended anytime soon.

As the Managing Director of Futures Trading at Simpler Trading, Raghee Horner has depended on TradeStation for more than 20 years.

“Reliable data, stable platform, and multiple asset classes are most important,” Horner said, describing her experience with TradeStation. “It supports all time frames whether I day trade or longer term.”

Horner, who uses different trading platforms for specific investments such as futures or options, doesn’t recommend using too many trading platforms, especially for newer traders.

“Each trader needs to find the brokers who offer the prices they are comfortable paying for executing their trades,” Horner said. “The cost of the trading platform is covered by executing more winning trades than losing ones.”

Like in trading, there is no perfect setup when it comes to trading platforms. TradeStation delivers a product that supports traders seeking to win more trades in their investment goals.

Support For Traders

As for client support, TradeStation has a reputation among some review responses for not being as helpful as expected with customer service, especially for inexperienced traders.

Remember, TradeStation is a racehorse and not a cute pony at the county fair. It will take work and self-education to use this platform successfully.

Such a necessary learning curve may not sit well with some people trying to learn the complexities of such a powerhouse software.

“The toughest part of learning any trading software is… all of it – order entry, installing indicators, order execution, setting up charts, etc.,” said Horner. She encourages self-directed traders to use fundamentals to develop a systemized trading plan.

TradeStation has gone to great lengths to invest in education and guidance for its clients.
The website offers two paths to start your journey with TradeStation as it asks whether you are trading for a living or trading on the side.

TradeStation is ready to work for traders – right now – so all platform options lead to opening an account.

If you need more information or want to “try out” the platform, there is an alternate path to TradeStation Analytics and it has a monthly subscription cost.

Anyone with questions about TradeStation or needing client support can reach the company through the web site or via chat, email, or telephone.

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Features and Benefits Work for Traders

There’s really no secret to mastering TradeStation or any other trading platform. The steps to mastery are clear:

  • Check your educational, vocational, and trading egos at the door
  • Watch the get started video and follow the training information
  • Work through the basics and essentials at your comfort level
  • Develop or integrate your trading strategy into the platform
  • Let the platform work for you, seek help when needed

Once you’ve grasped the essential functions of the trading platform, then accelerate your trading efforts based on your comfort level.

Less experienced traders can concentrate on basics such as setting up the TradeStation elements and finding their first trade possibilities. Once you’re ready, work with TradeStation to enter trades. Realize there is always risk in the markets and your trading platform should be a supporting element for your trading goals.

More experienced traders can reorient established trading plans and skill levels to the TradeStation platform and then add new tools or strategies as the markets present opportunities.

This requires a plan, proven strategies, and a proper mindset. All this should be supported by a trading platform connected in real time to today’s markets.

TradeStation has the trading software and brokerage services elements required to deliver the market analysis and trade execution support. It’s continuous development of high-level trading tools and analyzing historical market data over decades has secured loyalty among professional traders.

TradeStation is arguably the most versatile trading platform accessible to all self-directed traders whether they are part-time, full-time, inexperienced, or professional.