State of Futures Trading Platforms 2020


Aug 19

I wanted to take a look back at trading platforms August, 2020. I have primarily been a Tradestation and NinjaTrader user. To date, these platforms have been the most powerful for backtesting and serious futures trading.

While both platforms are invaluable, I have serious problems with both and support has not been responsive.

Problems I have had with Tradestation:

  • Matrix freezes during fast markets
  • Trade costs are way higher then anywhere else for futures. One tick won’t even cover costs for micro-gold. To me, if I cannot cover costs with a tick profit then its a scam.
  • Platform does not seem to be developing.
  • Support is getting worse and worse.
  • Crypto trading fees are ludicrous. They are 5x the industry average. I spent over $1,000 in commissions over a couple trades.

However, please do not confuse me. Tradestation is still one of the best for automated trading. And, there is no easier platform to get started with system development. Plus, equities is commission free.

NinjaTrader is the second dominant player and for good reason. It is one of the few “full featured” platforms out there.

However, the core problems with NinjaTrader are:

  • No support for grid based layouts, no window management, and windows cannot be managed with third party programs with NT 8. It makes it very difficult to setup and use for a multi-instrument trader. I have suggested one may be able to use Windows 10 “Virtual Desktops” to somewhat mitigate the problem but it should not even be an issue because it is not in any other platform to this extent.
  • Handicapped SuperDOM (unless you pay for static DOM) with now almost every other DOM being superior in at least one or more ways. SuperDOM is “super bulky”, at times lagging, and generally uninspired.
  • Market replay was great when it came out and is great in theory– and to be honest, it is still probably the most realistic replay. But, it is really difficult to use compared to other replay services.
  • Multi-broker only supported for lifetime holders.

One of the best new contenders is Overcharts. It supports the following:

  • Intuitive grid based layout and charting
  • DOM/Matrix trader
  • Some of the best chart trading I have ever seen– could be a replacement for DOM
  • Integrated/Basic scripting (big plus)
  • Reasonable pricing
  • Market profile and order flow
  • Supports Tradestation and Rithmic

Big cons:

  • No CQG support yet
  • As new platform likely has growing pains
  • No documentation

I am just starting to preview it and to be honest it had order entry problems with the DOM when connected to Tradestation on my first testing. The bug caused me to execute several orders that shouldn’t have been processed. However, the support was very quick to respond which is always a good sign.

Experiences with Overcharts so far are positive. I see a lot of potential and hope it can prove itself worthwhile.

Some of the other contenders– most of these have good things going for them but probably won’t meet my needs:

  • MotiveWave. Slickest charting and advanced technical analysis. However, no integrated scripting is a huge drawback to me. It requires using a separate Java compiler. Both NinjaTrader and Tradestation have integrated scripting.
  • QuantTower. Looks impressive on the web page but my initial first impressions last year were not very good. However, it may be one to watch as I was told it has improved. I believe it has C#/VB-like scripting which is a plus.
  • Investor/RT. Platform is priced high compared to others with lots add-on charges. Scripting looks limited and proprietary.
  • Sierra Charts. Power platform has a strong legion of dedicated users but support is known to be abrasive, scripting is weak, and user-interface is horrendous. The big drawback for me is the weak scripting.
  • TradeNavigator. This is a legacy platform that might be ideally suited toward rapid prototyping. But, the platform seems rather closed in terms of data feeds and third party support. They do not offer a trial and it is not clear that it can offer anything beyond Tradestation or NinjaTrader– both of which are practically free.

Right now, I think Overcharts is one of the promising new platforms to date.

I still think Overcharts could be an important platform. But, there is virtually no documentation for their scripting language and scripting support is still really at an incomplete state. Also, there isn’t a Market Replay functionality.

In reality, there are only 3 platforms that I consider “full stack” right now. Those platforms are: Tradestation, NinjaTrader, and Multicharts. Overcharts is very slick but still incomplete.

About the Author

The author is passionate about markets. He has developed top ranked futures strategies. His core focus is (1) applying machine learning and developing systematic strategies, and (2) solving the toughest problems of discretionary trading by applying quantitative tools, machine learning, and performance discipline. You can contact the author at