Comparison of the MetaTrader and cTrader trading platforms

MT4 vs cTrader

Since its launch in 2005, Metaquotes' MetaTrader 4 trading platform has dominated the retail trading industry. MetaTrader outperformed all other forex trading platforms and even entered other asset classes such as CFDs and futures.

For over 14 years, MetaTrader 4 has remained - by far - private traders' most used trading platform. In recent years, several other software companies have launched their own trading platforms in the hope of challenging MetaTrader's dominance. One of the biggest competitors is Spotware's cTrader platform.

Here is a comparison of the two platforms:


1. Interfaces, charts and indicators


The MetaTrader 4 and 5 platforms (MT4 and MT5) have been extremely popular for many years. They offer a wide range of features and a broad selection of indicators that can be customised by traders.

MT4 and its recent successor, MT5, provide a comprehensive set of tools and features to create charts and a wide range of third-party add-ons in the form of scripts and expert advisors (trading robots).

Note that since the beginning of 2018, MetaTrader 4 no longer provides software updates. New features and enhancements are now only available for MetaTrader 5.

MetaTrader 4



Spotware's cTrader platform was launched in 2011. For several years, Spotware has been trying to improve upon MetaTrader's shortcomings. The platform looks sleeker and is much more modern in terms of aesthetics and features. cTrader also offers more order types and more intuitive navigation.

The interface is "clean" and there are not many significant differences between cTrader and MetaTrader. Its graphic features, account management tools, backtesting abilities and technical indicators easily compete with MetaTrader.

plateforme de trading cTrader


2. Automated trading and backtesting

One of the reasons MetaTrader has dominated for so long is the support it provides to automatic trading via Expert Advisors. However, the cTrader package also supports automated trading and strategy backtesting, providing traders with a genuine alternative to MetaTrader.


MT4 and MT5 support Expert Advisors, or automated algorithms. These EAs can even be bought, sold and traded like basic commodities. The MetaTrader scripts are written in MQL4 or MQL5, respectively, as the MetaTrader language borrows a lot from the "C" programming language. This means that MQL4 and 5 are very powerful and can be used to create highly sophisticated trading programmes. Although the power of the MQL4/5 languages ​​is quite impressive, learning to program sophisticated trading systems is not for everyone; solid knowledge of the programming language is key to avoid having to call on professional programmers.

Note: MT4 and MT5 use different programming languages ​​- MT4 uses MQL4, while MT5 uses MQL5.

This means that all EAs, scripts and custom indicators encoded with MQL4 for use on MT4 are not compatible with MT5. All the code must be rewritten.

There is currently no easy way to convert features from one platform to another, which has led to dissatisfaction with MetaQuotes within the programming community.

Even those who have experience with C++-like programming languages ​​are likely to find it difficult to write their own EAs. However, experienced programmers are able to quickly master the language by using the documentation that MetaQuotes provides.

Fortunately, there are a number of tools like FX-Builder that allow you to create EAs without programming knowledge. In general, these options limit the complexity of the trading programmes that you can create, but they do allow you to create sophisticated trading algorithms (Read: Create a MetaTrader Expert Advisor). A number of companies and programmers also offer their programming services: the creation of customised EAs.

There are also a large number of EAs sold by vendors who claim that their programmes can help traders make money in the forex market. It is important that traders carry out sufficient due diligence on these companies or signal sellers, as the foreign exchange sector has unfortunately attracted unsavory and unscrupulous companies who use dubious business practices. Very often, commercial EAs don't live up to their marketing hype and after a few gains, large losses eventually arrive. (Read: How to choose a forex robot).

After creating or purchasing an Expert Advisor, it is possible to simulate the EA's performance using MetaTrader's strategy testing feature. This allows you to test the performance of an EA over a given historical period, as a majority of brokerages provide traders with a large backlog of historical data which can be used to test EAs. The quality of the backtest depends on the data used and the parameters defined by the trader. With a few adjustments, it is possible to perform extremely accurate backtests. (Read: Backtesting a strategy on MetaTrader 4 and Optimise an MT4 Expert Advisor)



The cTrader platform also provides access to automated trading and backtesting. Spotware supports algorithmic and automated trading via its cAlgo platform, widely available to anyone with a cTrader account. Trading robots for the cTrader platform are written in C#, a very popular object-oriented programming language with a large number of dedicated programmers. C# is a powerful programming language, but it can be difficult for a beginner to master it immediately. Unlike MetaTrader, there are no tools to create custom cAlgo programs from scratch, but there are tools to convert an MT4 EA to cBot for cTrader. (Read: Converting Expert Advisors into cBot)

The cAlgo platform allows users who are unfamiliar with programming to easily edit existing indicators and programmes.

As with the MetaTrader platform, it is also possible to call on a growing online developer community to create a custom cAlgo robot (cBot) according to your specifications. However, given the relative novelty of cTrader, there are currently far fewer programmers that work on cAlgo than on MetaTrader.

cTrader allows you to run tests using historical data, just like MetaTrader does. This feature is relatively easy to use and with a few minor adjustments, it is possible to generate accurate tests to optimise the performance of a trading robot.

Winner: MetaTrader probably has a slight advantage over cTrader in terms of automated trading, simply because there is a much more established community that focuses on creating EAs for MT4 and MT5. However, there is no reason for cTrader not to become a legitimate challenger in this regard should the platform become more popular.



3. Depth of market - Order book (Level II)

The feature that allows you to see the depth of the market has been borrowed from a futures markets term: DOM (Depth of Market).

Market depth provides information on the number of pending orders at a given price. This gives traders an added advantage over other traders who are not aware of the orders that are placed on the market.

Profondeur du marché cTrader


The first time that MT4 was released, it didn't come with an integrated market depth tool, which means that traders using an STP/ECN broker couldn't see the DOM data unless the broker made it available via a third-party plug-in.

MetaTrader 5 became the first MetaQuotes platform to introduce the market depth feature. The platform allows traders to open a list indicating the amount of liquidity for each price level and place orders at different levels. This improvement has been well received by many of the platform's users, although MetaTrader's DOM features are rather basic and simple compared to futures trading platforms such as Ninja Trader.


cTrader is much more sophisticated in terms of the depth-of- market feature - the platform allows you to see the full range of the broker's liquidity providers' executable prices. The VWAP view allows traders to get an idea of ​​the price they will get for large orders that may not be fully executed at a specific price. cTrader has no problem managing partial fills, although it depends largely on the broker. Overall, the cTrader platform's deep market functionality is quite advanced and suitable for all trading styles.

Winner: cTrader is the big winner when it comes to the depth-of-market feature. MetaTrader 4 does not have built-in support for DOM data and relies on third-party tools. Only a few brokers offer solutions that allow customers to view DOM data when using the MT4 platform. MetaTrader 5 has introduced the depth-of-market feature, but many brokers don't use it. Given the decentralised nature of the forex market, coupled with its large size and millions of daily participants, DOM data is largely redundant or unimportant, especially for small traders.



4. Availability


The MetaTrader platform is very widely available. In fact, a number of brokerage firms only offer this platform to its traders. MetaTrader is also available in mobile formats allowing traders to manage their positions while on the go.

MT4 remains by far the most used platform, as not all brokers have bought the MT5 license which is much more expensive and is not a major selling point for many individual traders.



Currently, Spotware's cTrader platform is not widely available, but a growing number of brokers are starting to adopt it. The platform is especially appreciated by ECN/STP brokers. The number of brokers who use cTrader is still relatively small, but you can find brokers with a very good reputation like Pepperstone.

Winner: MetaTrader is more widely available. Almost all major forex brokers offer this trading platform to their clients. The cTrader platform is not as widely available as MetaTrader, but traders can access the platform through a selection of reliable and regulated brokers.



Summary of the comparaison - cTrader VS MetaTrader

The choice of the platform depends on your personal preferences. EA-focused users will be more attracted to MT4 due to its greater availability, the number of online resources and its larger community. cTrader will attract traders who want to make changes to the interface and use more sophisticated types of trading orders. For novice traders, MT4 and cTrader will meet all their requirements. The differences are therefore essentially aesthetic and logistical in terms of the programming language and the availability of a diverse development community.

Here is a summary of the most important features:

MT4, MT5, cTrader

cTrader demo accountMT4 demo accountMT5 demo account

CFD trading is speculative and involves a significant risk of loss, so it is not suitable for all investors (74-89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs).

Previous: The cTrader ECN trading platformNext: ActTrader trading software