NinjaTrader vs TradeStation | Which platform is best for you?

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In this post I’ll compare two of the biggest and well known trading platforms on the market today: TradingView vs TradeStation.

In this side by side comparison I’ll discuss the key features of each platform. I’ll also compare in detail user experience, charting tools, indicator selection, costs, support and brokerage access. I’ll also give you my opinion for which platform performs best in each category and at the end offer my opinion on which platform performs best overall in this TradingView vs Tradestation comparison.

NinjaTrader vs TradeStation Key Features

Today’s post will focus on two of the top futures, forex and stocks trading platforms: NinjaTrader and TradeStation. To see how these platforms compare to each other, let us take a look at how each fare on some key platform features, these will include:

  • System requirements
  • Subscriptions options/pricing
  • Supported instruments
  • Overall appearance of interface/charts
  • Charting, Alerts, and Indicator 
  • Help center/user support 
  • Direct to market access (DMA)

System Requirements / Accessibility – NinjaTrader vs TradeStation

NinjaTrader is only available via desktop software installation. Tradestation can be accessed via desktop software installation, web browser or mobile app. Each platform has their own minimum installation requirements.  

NinjaTrader

Tradestation

Web based

✔

✔

Desktop download

✔

✔

Mobile Application 

No official mobile application in the works yet. However, NT provides a cloud-based mobile solution to access desktop software via VPS Refer to:  ninjamobiletrader.com

✔

Minimum PC Requirements

Processor: 1GHz or 32 and 64-bit  
RAM: 2 GB
Hard drive: SSD  
Operating Systems:
Windows7, 8, 10

Processor: Dual core or AMD processor at 1.5 GHz
RAM: 8 GB
Hard drive: 400 MB 
Operating Systems:
Windows 10, 8, and 7 64-bit

Subscription Options and Pricing – NinjaTrader vs TradeStation 

In this category, we will solely talk about subscription plans that pertain to the main trading platform. 

NinjaTrader

TradeStation

Free access/download

✔

Free download with free live futures/forex market data, advanced charting and strategy backtesting

✔

The only way to access TradeStation 10 for free is via the TS Select Subscription

Subscription Options 

NinjaTrader users can access platform live trading FREE (with limited features). NT platform can also be either leased or purchased through lifetime subscription. More on this later. 

TradeStation users can either get free access to the platform via TS GO, TS SELECT, among other options.*

Without brokerage accounts, the platform can be leased for a monthly fee

*this will be discussed further in the next section

Supported Instruments: Data and Trading – NinjaTrader vs TradeStation

NinjaTrader

TradeStation

Forex/Currencies

✔

Supports both data and trading

✔

Supports both data and trading

Stocks/Equity/Index

✔

Only supports market data; trading allowed via supported brokers API

✔

Supports both data and trading

Futures

✔

Supports both data and trading

✔

Supports both data and trading

Options

✔

Supports both data and trading

✔

Supports both data and trading

Mutual Funds

Does not support market data and trading 

✔

Supports both data and trading

Cryptocurrency

✔

Only supports market data; trading allowed via supported brokers API

✔

Supports both data and trading

Appearance of Interface and Charts – NinjaTrader vs TradeStation

NinjaTrader

TradeStation

User Interface Design

Simple design which is akin to a Windows-type interface 

Professional grade - Workspace design is very professional, accommodating multiple tabs with customizable layouts.

Chart Design

Simple, clean, and fully customizable charts
( e.g. bar spacing and width) Each chart is a free-floating window which can be resized easily to fit in the workspace.  Chart navigation is made easy with horizontal and vertical panning. Has chart panels that contain objects like data series, indicators, and drawing tools

Charts are simple, clean, and intuitive. Chart objects are customizable to fit user preferences with a simple double click. TradeStation workspace accommodates multiple charts each having their own customizable panel window. Charts are easily resizable. Chart navigation is relatively easy using up and down keyboard arrow panning. Charts are fully scalable

Charting, Alerts, and Indicators – NinjaTrader vs TradeStation

NinjaTrader

TradeStation

Free multiple chart view/workspaces

✔

✔

With TradeStation subscription

Alerts

✔

✔

With TradeStation subscription 

Number of free built-in indicators 

Up to 100+ built-in indicators (Free)

Up to 120 built-in indicators free with a TradeStation subscription 

Add-on Indicator Library (on top of built-in)

Library of indicators has up to 5,000+ custom indicators using Pine Script 

TradeStation has a wide array of custom-made indicators from independent developers using its proprietary EasyLanguage. To see the full list, click the link.

Help Center / User Support – NinjaTrader vs TradeStation

NinjaTrader

TradeStation

Customer support hotlines 

✔

24/5 customer support hotlines  Has a 24-hour emergency trade desk hotline and weekend technical support. 

✔

Supports both data and trading

Proprietary support articles/videos

✔

NT does this very well - offering extensive, well-written user guides as well as a support forum for free on its website. For more details, click the link.

✔

TS does this really well - incorporating the help articles right the platform (e.g.
Definition” button on indicators). There also many guides on platform training. 
PDFs of user guide as well as comprehensive video tutorials are available for free 

Availability of third party / articles and videos  published online 

✔

NT’s broad customer base has produced numerous online resources. 

✔

A simple Google search of TradeStation tutorial generated over 100,000 results. 

Direct to Market Access (DMA) and Data Levels – NinjaTrader vs TradeStation

NinjaTrader

TradeStation

Direct Market Access

✔

Utilizes CQG/Continuum to deliver orders from PC to the exchange in a seamless fashion

✔

Because TS is a full-fledged brokerage service, clients can expect direct market access and routing through its advanced trading tools 
Fast execution

Level 2 Market Data 

✔

Provides level 2 quotes for a fee 

✔

Provides level 2 quotes for a fee

NinjaTrader vs TradeStation: Pros and Cons

Let us take a look at several other factors to consider when comparing TradeStation vs NinjaTrader. In this section I will discuss in detail such things as getting started with the platform, fees, brokerage support, etc. Each platform will be described independently and compared against the other. At the end of section I pick a winner for that category.

Getting Started and Setup 

TradeStation and NinjaTrader are both mainly desktop applications.

Setup and installation for both platforms is easy but NinjaTrader requires less stringent requirements compared to TradeStation, particularly RAM and OS requirements.  

Like many other platforms, NinjaTrader and TradeStation have their own set of getting started and onboarding quirks. These pertain to ease of setting up layouts and interface familiarization. Generally, new users will require some basic tutorials to familiarize themselves with the platform. Neither platform is particularly intuitive. However, both TradeStation and NinjaTrader have decent getting started tutorials as well as general tech support that can ease the learning curve. 

Winner: TradeStation/NinjaTrader. This a tie on the getting started aspect. On the setup and installation, NinjaTrader nudges ahead – its minimum requirements are less demanding with only 2 GB RAM and Windows 7 minimum. This is in comparison to TradeStation’s 8 GB RAM and Windows 8 minimum requirement. 

Software vs Online Access 

NinjaTrader is only available via PC desktop software installation. On the other hand Tradestation is available via PC desktop installation, web browser and mobile application.  

Winner: TradeStation. In terms of flexibility in accessing the platform, TradeStation has the clear advantage over NinjaTrader. Tradestation offers users web browser and mobile application access. This is a huge advantage for traders that like the flexibility of trading remote from a desktop setup.

Software Costs

There are two main types of costs to be discussed in this section:  platform fees and commissions.

Platform Fees 

In terms of platform fees, non-brokerage clients of TradeStation pay heftier monthly fees of $99 for non-professional traders and $199 for professional traders. These fees cover platform access with added direct market access, trade executions and simulations. Brokerage clients can opt to subscribe via: TS Select and TS Go. TS Select clients enjoy free access to the platform subject trading fees. TS Go clients, on the other hand, are granted free access to the web and mobile platforms with limited online tools.

NinjaTrader users do have the option to access the platform for free for demo and live trading. If you want to us the more advanced features like order flow and chart trader (which I’m a big fan). There is a lease or purchase fee.

Overall, if your happy to go with either platforms brokerage solutions. Tradestations – TS Select with free platform access is a great deal. Remember TS select does require a $2000 minimum deposit. If you don’t need desktop access and happy with either web browser or mobile access. The TS Go plan offers great deals on commissions which I will discuss next.

Commissions 

TradeStation commissions are organized in a simple security type cost associated with each TS plan. NinjaTrader, on the other hand, is organized via license types and individual securities. In this respect, TradeStation’s cost structure is much simplier compared to NinjaTrader.  

TradeStation offers zero commissions for all securities. An addition fee accounts for exchange related costs.

TradeStation Securities

TS Select Plan

TS Go Plan

Stocks & ETFs 

$0.00 Commission

$0.00 Commission

Stock Options 

$0.00 Commission           
+$0.60 per contract 

$0.00 Commission           
+$0.50 per contract 

Futures 

 $0.00 Commission                
 +$1.50 per contract, per side 

 $0.00 Commission                
 +$0.85 per contract, per side 

Futures Micro E-Mini

$0.00 Commission               
+$0.50 per contract, per side

 $0.00 Commission               
+$0.50 per contract, per side

*prices listed are at time of writing. For the most up to date fees and commission see Tradestation website fees.

Ninjatrader commission costs depend on your license type and individual security being traded. In the following table I have listed the Futures Micro E-Mini commissions as a comparison example.

NinjaTrader License Options

Platform Costs

Features & commissions (Futures Micro E-Mini example)

Free License

$0.00 USD/month or year 

Advanced charting, market analysis, simulated trading, live trading

Commission for NT brokerage pricing for Futures Micro E-Mini:
$0.35
+$0.37 Exchange related costs per contract per side

Lease license

$720 annual or $425 semi-annual or $225 quarterly 

All features under free plus premium feature: Trader  +
Commission for NT brokerage  pricing for Futures Micro E-Mini:
$0.25
+$0.37 Exchange related costs per contract per side

Own license

$999 one-time payment or $329 for 4 monthly installments 

All features under Lease plus premium feature: Order Flow +
Commission for NT brokerage  pricing for Futures Micro E-Mini:
$0.09
+$0.37 Exchange related costs per contract per side 

*Prices listed are at time of writing. For the most up to date fees and commission see NinjaTrader’s website fees.

At the time of writing, unless you have a lifetime NT license. Tradestation’s commission and exchange related costs per contract per side are cheaper.

Winner: Tradestation. Since Tradestation introduced $0 commissions, Tradestation with either the TS Select or TS Go brokerage account options are the clear winners. The only real drawback to the TS select options is the hefty minimum transaction. The TS Go option does away with the requirement but at the tradeoff of no access to Tradestation desktop platform and limited access to online tools.

Broker Support

TradeStation is popularly known as a top-tier broker-dealer for multiple asset classes. As a brokerage, TradeStation only supports its own services; and doesn’t have a broker network. Although, TradeStation did announce an API integration with TradingView in 2019. This feature is more geared towards TradingView customers to get access to TradeStation’s trade execution features. 

NinjaTrader, on the other hand, has a limited broker network that includes its own proprietary brokerage. The platform supports Futures and Forex brokers, popular choices include: Interactive Broker and Ameritrade. For a full list of NinjaTrader brokerage options click the link. 

Winner: NinjaTrader. The platform grants flexibility of a more accommodating brokerage network. This accommodates a wider client base with NinjaTrader providing an opportunity for integration with existing brokerage accounts in Interactive Brokers or TD Ameritrade, for example. 

Charting Tools

TradeStation 10 is a standout among trading platforms with its professional-grade and high customization charting applications. Heavy technical analysis traders will love the platform’s arsenal of charting tools.

Studies

A visual and graphical studies of historical and real-time price action. The list of studies containing basic to more advanced mathematical studies. Includes:  technical indicators, activity bar, probability map studies, among others 

Strategies

Create rules that use price movement, volatility, and market conditions

Drawing Tools

TradeStation provides two types of drawing objects (analytical and non-analytical). the platform has a vast collection that can complete any trader’s arsenal – from Andrew’s Pitchfork, complete Fibonacci family, Gann Fan, Regression Channel to the universally important trendline. 

Chart Trading

TradeStation provides a built-in trade tool that allows quick trade executions as well as order management.

TradeStation is renowned for its library of tools, smooth charting experience and its highly customizable studies. 

NinjaTrader offers brilliant charting tool options. NT offers all the standard tool charting options with the added functionality of being able to apply the same object to different charts that displays the same instrument. NT also allows customization of up to 20 drawing tools.

Winner: TradeStation. A clear winner, The platform grants more options compared to NinjaTrader. TradeStation’s customization options are absolutely top tier. If you are heavy on algorithmic trading and customizing studies and charts, TradeStation is an excellent choice.

Charting Experience and Interface Design

TradeStation’s overall platform experience is something that cannot go unnoticed. Being awarded #1 eight consecutive times for #1 Platform Technology by StockBrokers.com, the platform truly embodies professionalism with its award-winning technology. Users are treated with a fast, highly intuitive, and a smooth charting experience. On top of the very advanced charting, the interface can be loaded with multiple dashboards to which users can freely add applications and organize their workstation into window panels. the only real notable downside is chart panning doesn’t use a scroll-type mechanism.

NinjaTrader also offers a brilliant charting experience. Drawing objects and adding indicators is relatively smooth and intuitive. Similarly, the interface design is highly customizable allowing users to construct dashboards to their own liking.  

Winner: TradeStation. This was a close call. Both platforms are very smooth and have intuitive interface designs. One differentiating feature was TradeStation’s landing page called TradeStation Today. Which displays news/announcements, events, position graph, and user trades. The availability of free dashboard templates is also a nice feature. Users can opt to select a dashboard design that’s optimized for a particular security of interest (i.e., equities, forex, etc.).

Selection of Indicators 

TradeStation carries a decent amount of built-in and add-on indicators. The library consists of about 120 built-ins and a wide array of custom indicators made by independent developers.  The spectrum of indicator categories is more or less complete – choose from the popular Elliott Wave, Moving Averages, Oscillators, Overbought/Oversold indicators. The custom indicator library will continue to grow as TradeStation’s proprietary language, Easylanguage, requires little to no programming experience. 

NinjaTrader also has an expansive library of indicators. It grants access to free custom indicators from the User App Share library. A useful feature is the most popular indicator panel which displays indicators that have received the most downloads from the community. Unlike TradeStation’s Easylanguage, Ninjascript needs at least some previous programming experience/knowledge. 

Winner: TradeStation. Both TradeStation and NinjaTrader have a great selection of indicators. The difference between each platform has to be the ability to build-your-own indicators. TradeStation simply utilizes a less complex programming language. 

Access to Markets and Instruments 

TradeStation is a runaway winner here. The platform provides both data feed and trading for the following securities: equities, futures, forex, options, cryptocurrency, even mutual funds. Notably, TradeStation’s data reaches level 2 price quotes. 

NinjaTrader, on the other hand, limits its data feed and trading capabilities to Forex and Futures only. It provides data feed only for equities, options, and cryptocurrency. 

It’s also worth noting that NinjaTrader doesn’t provide real time and historical data feed for free on its platform. Data needs for futures and forex are provided by a third party provider such as Kinetick, CQG/Continuum or Rithmic. 

Winner: TradeStation. Opens the door to multiple asset classes for retail and professional traders – a unique feature that is difficult to find amongst most brokers. 

Timeframes and Chart Data Types 

Both TradeStation and NinjaTrader support multi-timeframe analysis that are highly customizable. Users can select from intraday (seconds, minutes, hours, daily) to longer term timeframes (weekly, monthly, yearly). Data feeds also provide tick and volume based data.

NinjaTrader’s chart types include the popular OHLC, Candlestick, and line. The list includes:

  • Box Bars 
  • Equivolume
  • Hollow Candlestick
  • Kagi line
  • Mountain 
  • HLC 
  • HiLo 
  • Open/Close 
  • Point and Figure 

TradeStation hosts the popular bar, line, and candlestick charts. The list also includes:

  • Kagi 
  • Kase Bar
  • Like Break 
  • Kagi line
  • Momentum Bar 
  • Point and Figure 
  • Range Bar 
  • Renko 

Winner: TradeStation/NinjaTrader.  This is a tie as both platforms are at par in delivering a good number of timeframes and chart data types to accommodate the needs of various traders. The customization of time intervals has no limitations for either platform. Both platforms also contain detailed information on the definition and significance of each chart type. 

Alerts 

Alert setup is fairly easy on both platforms. Alerts can simply be done through simple inputs and clicks on the custom alerts dialog. NinjaTrader users can create alerts with conditions set on drawing tools, indicators price movement, account and position stats, and data series. There are no limitations set on the number of alarms and users get to enjoy a variety of ways of getting notified (through email, desktop, and text message notifications). Similarly, TradeStation offers alerts only applicable to analysis techniques such as drawing objects and indicators. It can’t apply alerts to strategies. 

Winner: NinjaTrader. Although both platforms offer free alerts, NinjaTrader’s alerts can be applied to strategies. NinjaTrader also offers text message notification through its Share Services. This gives users the freedom and confidence to go offline and still get notified when alerts are triggered. 

Community

NinjaTrader’s social network is based solely on its user forum where users can interact with moderators regarding platform technicalities and NinjaScript. Other outlets that promote a sense of community are through its User App Share where users can upload custom apps and indicators to share with other members.

TradeStation also has a forum but covers topics beyond the usual platform technicalities and programming language (Easylanguage). The forum hosts active conversations about TradeStation-user back tested strategies and trades, trading books, articles, and video reviews, as well as active conversations about markets (equites, options, futures, and forex). 

Winner: TradeStation. The forum is much more active and thrives with conversations on different trading topics. It’s a place where users can interact, share, and learn about the ins and out of the world of trading. General growth topics include psychology, money management, EasyLanguage support, among others. 

Support

Both platforms score very well in this category with detailed user guides and dedicated customer support hotlines. Both platforms offer 24 hour emergency trade desk support.

Whilst NinjaTrader provides great customer support, TradeStation offers standout service. 

TradeStation takes customer support at a whole different level. TS offers extensive user guides and help center which consists of forums and video tutorials. Tradestation’s ‘definition’ feature allows users to access proprietary help articles on a particular study (e.g., indicators) with a mere click. 

Winner: TradeStation.  The variety in ways TradeStation provides help is what makes it a standout. 

Learning Curve 

TradeStation generally speaking has a steep learning curve particularly for novice traders. TradeStation is definitely one of the more complex trading platforms available. Thankfully, the platform has a dedicated Learn page that’s extremely detailed in walking users through the platform. 

NinjaTrader is also known to have a steep learning curve. It can take several days to be comfortable with the platform mechanics. Moreover, NinjaScript is quite a complex language to maneuver. 

Winner: Tie. Both platforms are quite complex. Compared to the likes of TradingView, new users will have to rely on help centers and user forums to understand platform dynamics. Thankfully, both TradeStation and NinjaTrader have extensive learning resources available. 

NinjaTrader vs TradeStation – My Final Thoughts

These are both brilliant pieces of trading platform software. Either platform will serve the retail or professional trader well.

Once again, I’m quite surprised my the outcome of this platform comparison analysis. I wasn’t expecting the result to be quite so clear cut. But to be fair each category was close. BUT almost every time one platform stood out.

On balance, in my opinion, the clear winner has to be TradeStation. TS offers almost all the standout features of NinjaTrader but seems to do them just a little better.

Once upon a time NinjaTrader had a big advantage on platform and trade commission fees. But since TS has offer $0 commissions and free access to desktop, web browser and mobile platform with the TS Select plan it seems this advantage has gone.

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