The MetaTrader platform was created by the MetaQuotes Software Corporation. MetaQuotes started making financial platforms in the year 2000 when it released the FX Charts trading platform. After the initial success of this platform, MetaQuotes then created a new platform to handle not only forex transactions but also CFD (Contracts For Difference) trading. The new platform included an integrated programming language called MQL1.
The MetaTrader generation of platforms started a year later, adding futures trading to the possibilities and using an improved integrated programming language, MQL2. After intermediate releases of MetaTrader, including MetaTrader for mobile platforms and for Palm, the company brought out MetaTrader 4 in 2005, with MQL4 IDE, a trading strategy development environment that enhanced the capabilities of the platform for automated trading programs.
Why is MetaTrader a popular platform?
Traders and investors using the MetaTrader interface can see real time information on the “ask” and “bid” prices of currency pairs that are of interest to them. The MetaTrader screen displays graphical charts that show how prices are developing so that traders can identify patterns to make trades.
Traders can also automate certain actions using “scripts”. These are simple instructions that can be stored and applied to the MetaTrader software to save traders time and effort. An example might be to set “stop loss” orders to 15 open positions for trading a particular currency. Instead of manually setting this order for each position, a trader can apply a script that automatically does this. Many of the actions available to traders in the MetaTrader interface can be accomplished using the same “drag and drop” possibilities as for other kinds of software. For example, to apply the script above, a trader would “drag” the script from its directory on the MetaTrader screen and “drop” it onto the area containing the 15 open trades.
The MetaTrader interface is equipped with a number of different indicators for technical analysis. The standard indicators are based on techniques involving moving averages, price oscillators, retracement levels and breakout points. As a trader, you’ll find tools like MACD, Parabolic SAR, Pivots, Stochastic Oscillator and RSI and CCI standard indicators. Traders can also customize these indicators to build specific ones for their own use.
Extended MetaTrader functionality
Besides the possibilities of scripts to execute an action just once, MetaTrader also offers “Expert Advisors” (EAs) to manage positions and to give orders without manual intervention. EAs extend the possibilities of automatic trading and allow traders to define more complex strategies that can be applied when market conditions trigger the intervention of the EA. The MetaTrader client software is provided with examples of EAs that traders can also use or modify for their own trading requirements. The platform also allows for even more sophisticated programming by making available an “application programming interface” (API).
MetaTrader platform licensing
MetaQuotes licenses its MetaTrader platform to financial institutions and organizations, including forex brokers. Brokers then have the right to distribute the MetaTrader client interface free of charge to their own clients. They can also add to the scripts, indicators and Expert Advisors to add value to the platform for their own commercial advantage in attracting new investors and maintaining the loyalty of existing ones.
MetaTrader user and developer groups
In parallel with the popularity of the platform, a MetaTrader community has arisen composed of MetaTrader users and developers. Traders wishing to implement different scripts or Expert Advisors may find that the script in question has already been written and made available by another member of the community.
The MetaTrader trading interface is a popular application that traders can run on their own PCs to manage their trading in forex and other financial trading activities. It is part of the software in the MetaTrader platform is developed by the MetaQuotes Corporation. There are two major components of the platform:
MetaTrader “client” – this is the software interface that is installed on a trader’s PC and that communicates with the trader’s broker over the Internet. Traders use the MetaTrader client to predict developments in the market and in the exchange rates of currencies of interest to them, and to open and close positions online with their broker.
MetaTrader “server” – an application running on the broker’s own IT system that receives and acts on orders from traders, sends information to traders via the MetaTrader client software and performs different administrative and management functions for the broker.
MetaTrader trader interface functionalities
The main MetaTrader 4 terminal functionalities are: Market Watch, Navigator, Chart Tools (Terminal, Reading Activity Status and New Order Button).
Market Watch window: The Market Watch window on the upper left part of the screen displays the currency pairs available to you. For each currency pair (EUR/USD for example), you can see the Bid Price (what you can get for selling the currency pair) and the Ask price (what you have to pay if you want to buy).
Navigator Window: To see your accounts, technical indicators, custom indicators, expert advisors and scripts, you use the Navigator window. These items are listed here and you can click on them to see more information. To use a particular indicator on a forex chart, you can drag and drop the indicator directly into the forex chart. The same method works for custom indicators, which are the technical indicators created by users outside the MetaQuotes Corporation, and for scripts, which you can drag onto a chart to perform a specific action.
Terminal bar: At the bottom of the screen is the terminal bar where you’ll find information on your performance for current and preceding trades. You can see which trades are currently open, your account balance and your free margin. You can also see a display of all the trades that are now closed. News from your broker is displayed under the News tab or the Mailbox tab. The Alerts tab lets you know when certain market conditions are met and you can define what those conditions are. The Experts tab tells you about the Expert Advisor you are using; if it made or closed a trade, if it is active or disabled.
Chart Tools: at the top of the screen the Chart Tools let you switch between different types of chart display: bar charts, candlestick charts and line charts are all available. New Order and New Chart buttons display windows for placing orders and for seeing a chart for a new currency pair, respectively.
MetaTrader Scripts and Expert Advisors
A script is a MetaTrader file or command that only runs once. It is a simple way of automating an action in the MetaTrader interface, such as setting a stop-loss order for a number of open positions, or systematically opening long and short positions for a particular financial instrument. Scripts can save a trader considerable time and energy, and they can also help prevent errors due to inattention (for example, opening two long positions, instead of one long and one short).
Expert Advisors are more sophisticated. They will run until you tell them to stop. You can program them to take action when certain conditions in the market are met, so that they provide a means of automated trading. Some financial institutions use the MetaTrader Expert Advisors to help them execute complex trading strategies. Other traders use them to be able to carry on trading even if they are absent from their PC.