Founded in 2010, Spotware Systems Ltd (Spotware) is the developer of a suite of brokerage software, including the cTrader suite of platforms offered by a growing number of online brokerages to Forex and CFD traders globally. This guide highlights some of the key advantages and features that have helped the cTrader suite become increasingly popular among international forex traders and brokers.
The cTrader suite includes related trading applications from the developer such as the cAlgo and cMirror platforms, where cAlgo is used for automated trading and cMirror is a social copy-trading platform. cTrader comes as a web-based and desktop version for Windows.
Online forex brokers license cTrader from Spotware and offer it as a third-party platform for manual and algorithmic traders.
cTrader Liquidity and Order Execution
As part of its history and current requirements, Spotware stipulates that brokers connect with at least one recognized Liquidity Provider (LP). Once set up, trade execution is verified against prices streamed from LPs into the platform. This helps hold a higher standard of execution whether the broker is acting as a dealer (counterparty) or if the execution is facilitated on an agency basis (agency-broker) to a third-party dealer.
It is useful to note that even in cases where a broker is acting as a dealer when offering cTrader, it is not making the market as a traditional market maker. Instead, prices are provided by the LP and cannot be modified by the dealer (even though the dealers are free to manage their risk on a post-trade basis).
For retail traders, this can translate into a consistent standard of execution. Because each LP is different, prices will vary across cTrader brokers. That said, all orders are filled at a Volume-Weighted Average Price (VWAP). Brokers offer either commission-free pricing (charging the spread only) or commission-based pricing (a fee that is added per trade) in addition to prevailing spreads.
At the same time, traders get access to a good range of platform tools such as complex order types, and the ability for partial fills on orders when liquidity is scarce, along with advanced charting within cTrader.
Today the cTrader suite of platforms are available across a growing number of online forex brokers, with the native version of the desktop platforms available for Windows operating system (OS), a web-based version, and a Mobile app for Android and Apple iOS devices available by default.
Here is a list of the forex brokers we have reviewed so far that offer one or more MetaTrader platforms:
- FxPro – 4 Stars Overall
- IC Markets – 4 Stars Overall
- Pepperstone – 3.5 Stars Overall
- LCG – 4.0 Stars Overall
cTrader Platforms Overview
The cTrader platform is offered as a Windows desktop-download, web-based version, as well as a mobile app for Android and Apple iOS devices.
When it comes to the responsive web-based version of the platform, some of the key features of cTrader are its modern design and feel, thanks to its sharp user interface based on HTML5, which helps it match up to the latest web standards, along with a good deal of subtle features and prominent trading tools.
The browser (web) version of cTrader is built using the latest standards, which means it is HTML 5 powered and 100% responsive (mobile friendly). The design is clean, crisp, and provides a plethora of trading tools and subtle features such as a variety of layout customizations.
Like its web-based counterpart, the desktop version of the platform also offers a clean, consistent design. The one primary advantage of the desktop version is the depth of additional features, including the ability to run cBots for automated trading (more on that below).
Whether you’re using the web-based version, the desktop version, or mobile apps, all the variants provide a similar look and feel. This is important because maintaining a consistent user experience across devices keeps traders focused and efficient, regardless of their trading setup. The cTrader mobile app is available for Android devices and for Apple iOS devices.
cTrader – Charting and Tools
Charting within the cTrader platform is one of the main attractions of the software as users get plenty of drawing tools and a good range of 64 indicators that are available by default.
More advanced users can obtain custom indicators from the cTrader Developer Network (cTDN) or code them on their own. There is also a public beta API available from within the platform.
Overall, the range of tools and available customizations, including the way margin is calculated and how margin calls are handled (when trades are closed out due to insufficient margin), help make the cTrader platform versatile.
cAlgo for Automated Trading
Aside from manual trading on the cTrader suite of platforms, the developer offers cAlgo – a standalone desktop application that enables traders to create automated trading systems to automate trading (to perform algorithmic trading) in their brokerage account.
To trade algorithmically on cTrader, users must either use the desktop version of cTrader or separately install the cAlgo desktop software for Windows where cBots can be enabled for automated trading. Traders can obtain cBots from the cTrader Developer Network (cTDN) or from third parties, in addition to developing them on their own.
Running on a .NET framework, cAlgo uses C Sharp (C#) syntax (this is where the “c” comes from in the name cTrader), where programmers can code their trading systems (cBots) as well as create custom indicators from within cAlgo or in Visual Studio.
One feature that has helped contribute to the increasing number of traders using cAlgo for automated trading is that those who have trading systems from other platforms, such as the popular MetaTrader 4 (MT4) trading software, can convert the source code of their EAs from the MQL language to C# format for use with cAlgo using the MQ4 to C# converter tool.
Of course, not all traders who have EAs also have access to the source code, unless the EA is in MQ4 format, as EX4 files do not provide access to the source code.
Nonetheless, it is safe to say that the platform is a close competitor to MetaTrader, as algorithmic trading is supported along with the ability to program custom indicators. One final note for algorithmic traders who need to have their platform running continuously for their cBots to remain active within the cAlgo or cTrader desktop platform, a Virtual Private Server (VPS) is often the preferred choice.
On cTDN, there are nearly ten third-party VPS providers traders can choose from. Using a VPS also potentially reduces latency as servers are often ideally located in data centers near major financial hubs such as London, New York and Tokyo, for example.
cMirror for Social Copy-Trading
Spotware Systems released the cMirror platform to allow traders o mirror (i.e. copy trade) other users, as part of its social copy-trading offering. Every forex broker that offers the cTrader suite also offers cMirror, even if it isn’t advertised.
However, cMirror is still new and has yet to attract a significant user base compared to other social copy-trading platforms available. For example, there are barely 124 cBots available on cTDN and roughly double that number in terms of strategies on cMirror. Nonetheless, if there is a signal provider that you wish to copy trade, cMirror is the solution to follow manual traders and those running cBots.
Pros and Cons of cBots and Copy Trading
Just are there are good and bad manually traded strategies, the same can be said for trading strategies that can be automated (algorithmic driven), regardless of the trading platform used.
However, having the right trading tools to control the risk/reward potential is imperative, considering that automated trading strategies can be set on autopilot.
Fortunately, cTrader provides the same range of tools for automated trading as it does for manual trading when it comes to risk management, including trailing stops and order types.
Back testing and optimizing cBot strategies
cAlgo supports backtesting, which is a useful process for analyzing how a cBot strategy would have performed over historical data for a given trading instrument, before forward testing a strategy. cAlgo also permits users to specify either a fixed spread or spread range to estimate the impact of trading costs on the overall results of each back testing simulation.
Another computationally intensive feature on the cAlgo platform is the ability to perform an optimization, which takes the results of a backtest and looks for the settings that would have worked best to achieve the greatest results on the sample data.
While this can be useful for program developers or users to customize their cBot parameters (by analyzing the settings in each pass), it is based on the benefit of hindsight (like all backtesting software) and means the best parameters found from an optimization are cherry-picked, as the results are curve-fitted to the data.
For example, using the same date range from the above back test image, the results in the image below show 770 passes (different results) where each pass found (optimized) the parameters that would have worked based on the sample data.
Therefore, results of any optimization should be taken lightly and only deemed useful after extensive forward testing to confirm any effectiveness on out-of-sample data. Put simply, past performance is not indicative of future results.
Whether using the platform to trade manually or for algorithmic trading, or both, cTrader offers forex and CFD traders a great range of tools and features wrapped in an innovative trading experience.
Questions to consider when choosing a cTrader broker include the range of markets and trading instruments available, as well as margin requirements and regulatory licenses, among other variables as outlined in our detailed broker reviews.
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