Stock Software Review
Why Use Stock Software?
The top performers in our review are OptionsHouse, the Gold Award winner; Fidelity, the Silver Award winner; and TradeKing, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 companies.
Affordable stock software offers you a way to manage and develop your investment portfolio through an online trading platform. This type of investment software is developed to meet the needs of people investing for personal gain and not as a profession. Stock tracking software allows you to design your trade platform to your preferences. The software comes with powerful tools and features for researching, trading and monitoring stocks and for managing your positions.
The services on our stock software comparison are ideal for trading stocks rather than learning the ropes. If you are a beginner in the stock market, you may want to look at our site for Beginner Stock Trading, which focuses on education and learning offered. If you are more advanced and looking for higher-risk trading, you can check out our Options Trading and Forex reviews.
Best Online Brokers
All online stock trading software is provided by online discount brokers. These brokers set commission fees for trades that your order. While most services charge competitive rates, some charge less than others, and some also offer tiered fee models, so the more you trade, the less you spend per trade. TradeStation is one of these tiered-model services. If plan to open a margin account, which allows you to borrow money from your broker for investment purposes, the margin rate will be important to you. The lower the margin rate, the better, and most services decrease this rate the more you borrow. Along with the rates and fees, the platform of the software itself is important when choose your stock trading software. For more information, take a look at our additional articles on stock software.
Discount Brokers: Choose the Best Trading Platform for You
Because you will be making your trades online and managing your investments through your personal stock software's trading platform, it is imperative that the software you choose offers a well-designed and easy-to-use trade platform with powerful tools.
Stock software platforms come in many different forms, and the best depends on the features and style of platform that works best with your stock trading strategies. Online platforms, such as the ones Fidelity offers, are becoming more common. Being online and a static webpage, most online platforms are less customizable than desktop platforms, as they are organized into tabs with fixed information on each. However, these also tend to be more intuitive as they are more simplistic.
On the other end are the desktop platforms, such as TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim. Platforms such as these have a classic trading look, with black backgrounds and color-coded analytic charts and graphs. All of the desktop platforms we reviewed are customizable to some degree, so you can add multiple windows to track multiple watchlists or option chains at the same time, and you can run reports or monitor stock performance from a single window. These lists and reports may be resized and reorganized on the platform so you are watching the information that is important to you.
All of the services on our lineup offer mobile platforms, either as apps or as a mobile-optimized website. You are able to trade stocks with all of the services, and options with most. You can also monitor your positions and manage your portfolio. Some mobile apps, such as the E*TRADE mobile platform, have additional features, like barcode scanning, which scans products and provides publically trading information concerning that product's stock. A few allow you to transfer funds into your account as well.
How We Evaluated Stock Software
When evaluating stock software, we considered how comprehensive the features each platform offers are. Features like a profit-and-loss estimator help you track the current and potential future performance of your portfolio. Volatility reports assist in speculating on the future performance of a stock. We checked each stock software for standard features, such as the ability to create custom watchlists and option chains and the ability to monitor live, streaming quotes. Further, we measured how well those features work and how much information and customization you control - adding markers to and setting parameters for reports, for example.
When we tested the platforms, we evaluated how easily each of the tasks could be completed, and we assessed the intuitive nature of the platform itself. For each service, we created a proprietary score for both the trading platform and the mobile app.
On the website platform or the desktop platform, we created watchlists and options chains, ran reports and researched stocks. We also tried advanced features, such as exporting information to tax programs and syncing to the bank. We performed research using the available analytic tools and charting options. We looked for how easy it was to find and execute these functions and how well we could customize the overall platform.
We also downloaded the mobile trading app for each service, connected to the online account, performed research and looked at funding options. Mobile platforms across the board allow you to research and trade stocks, but some are not as easy to use or are not offered on all mobile devices. When evaluating and creating our Mobile App Functionality score, we looked at the ability to create and edit watchlists, perform research, and fund accounts from the app.
The scores for Platform Ease of Use reflect our experience using the online or desktop platforms. Overall, we found the online OptionsHouse to be an all-around solid choice. The online platform is simple to navigate and intuitive. TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim desktop platform is also a great choice, albeit a more advanced platform. It can be less intuitive than many online platforms, but it offers more options for charting analysis than any other service on our lineup.
While there is inherent risk with investing in the stock market, the risk depends on the investment vehicle you choose. Stocks and retirement funds are less risky than options or futures, which speculate on the future performance of stock rather than buying and selling a stock outright at face value. Forex is even riskier. These high-risk investments offer the potential for higher pay offs, but they are prone to high losses as well. Futures trading and forex trading are not recommended for beginners.
Our Verdict & Recommendation
When choosing stock software, your personal trading goals and strategies are the most important aspects. If you will be trading simple stocks and do not require advanced tools for researching and monitoring stocks, a simple online platform, such as Fidelity or Scottrade, may be adequate. For complicated and higher-risk investments, such as options and stocks, a desktop platform or a customizable online platform might be a better choice. With a desktop stock software, you can have control over the most important information for your trades and take advantage of its advanced features and tools. OptionsHouse and TradeStation offer customizable online platforms. Our top performers offer solid platforms, most of which are customizable, along with low rates and fees.