MetaTrader 4 vs 5 vs cTrader - Differences and similarities

In Forex, traders can buy and sell currency pairs using the software that has various tools and indicators integrated into it. The most popular trading platforms in today’s Forex market are called MetaTrader 4, MetaTrader 5, and cTrader.
The MetaTrader trading platform, containing MT4 and MT5, was developed by MetaQuotes. MT4 is a well-known trading platform among traders because it has been around since 2005. MT5 is a successor of MT4 released in 2010 but it doesn’t replace the older version as it is still popular among traders.
There are many differences, as well as similarities between the two versions. For example, MT4 is a more simplistic and limited software that contains 9 timeframes to choose from, whereas MT5 has 21 timeframes. Also, the two programs use different programming languages - MQL4 and MQL5 - that are used to develop various technical indicators, scripts, etc.
As for the similarities, both MT4 and MT5 have almost exactly the same interface and both of them use Expert Advisors that enable traders to set up automated trades. They support all three of the most popular charts - line, bar, and candlestick - and choosing from one chart type to another also takes similar steps.
cTrader is also a trading software developed by Spotware company. It was released around the same time as MT5 in 2011. Like MT5, cTrader also offers more complex tools and indicators for trading. But unlike MetaTrader platforms, cTrader uses a more common C# programming language. As for the design, cTrader is more modern-looking and offers one additional chart type - a dot chart.

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MT4 vs MT5 vs cTrader - a basic overview

When people want to trade different securities, be it Forex pairs, stocks, or commodities, they choose service providers, also known as brokers, that offer trading instruments and various tools. Those brokers also offer various software programs in which traders open positions and trade the assets.
Today, the most popular pieces of trading software are MetaTrader 4 (MT4), MetaTrader 5 (MT5), and cTrader. All three of them have their differences and similarities, and all of them are pretty well-known among traders.

Comparing MT4 to cTrader

A brief backstory behind these programs

Before we jump into the comparison of these programs, let’s see how they were created and what the idea behind creating them was.
  • MetaTrader is a trading software developed by a company called MetaQuotes. The company released MT4 in 2005 and it brought a significant change in trading. It replaced the existing MetaTrader programs, improved stability of the server, etc. The main idea behind MetaTrader 4 for beginners, as well as experienced traders, was to provide a better platform for Forex trading;
  • Five years later, in 2010, MetaQuotes released the next version of MetaTrader - MT5. While the design was pretty much the same, the new version introduced new additions to the software: the ability to trade more instruments such as stocks and commodities, the new programming language, and more;
  • The third piece of trading software, cTrader, was released in 2011 by Spotware. Like MT5, cTrader also included different securities and had more tools available. But unlike MetaTrader programs, cTrader had a different design with a more modern interface. Besides, the software used a common C# programming language that enabled people to create various scripts and tools for it.

Design differences

When it comes to the design of these programs, there are certain similarities, as well as differences between them. Since MT4 and MT5 were released by the same company, they have pretty much the same design.

MetaTrader 4 for beginners

So, the interface difference between MT4 and MT5 is pretty much non-existent and has more of a Windows 98 look to it with blank white and light grey windows. Even the layout of charts, market watch, and other elements have the same position in the programs: the majority of the screen accommodates four live charts for the most popular Forex pairs (it’s a stock layout that can be changed easily), while the various tools and indicators are placed on the left and the bottom part of the screen.
The design is more modern-looking and simplistic in cTrader. One of the main advantages of this program is the ability to change the theme of the interface: there are both light and dark themes available. Both looks are cleaner, yet the interface still offers various tools and indicators, as well as charts and instruments.
cTrader tutorial

Comparing MT4 to cTrader, or even MT5, the chart layout is a bit different: in cTrader, there is only one chart - now supporting four charts - which is located in the center of the interface. This way, the trading instruments on the left, as well as the position details (or other selectable components) at the bottom, have a much bigger space than in MT4 or 5.

Programming languages - MQL4, MQL5, C#

As we have already mentioned, MT4, MT5, and cTrader use different programming languages: MT4 uses MQL4 (MetaQuotes Language 4), MT5 uses MQL5, and cTrader uses C#.
Even though the MetaTrader software programs were developed by the same company and have the same design, their programming languages are still very different from each other.
While there are many complicated terms that explain the difference between the two languages, the main difference between them is that MQL5 is more efficient to use and traders themselves can create, as well as change, the scripts. Not only that, the programs developed for MT4 cannot function on MT5, which is a big disadvantage of the latter one because there are a lot more programs for MT4 - traders and brokers have been using this program for almost 15 years.
Now, unlike MetaTrader programs that use their own specific language, cTrader is based on a commonly-used C# language. Because of its popularity, programmers from all backgrounds - and not just those specialize in trading - can create new tools, scripts, and features for this program. Therefore, there are more possibilities for cTrader than MT4 or MT5.

Trading with MT4/MT5/cTrader tutorial

Now that we have reviewed the basic features like design and the foundation of these trading programs, let’s turn our attention to how they compare to one another in the actual trading. We’ll take a look at the chart types and available time frames, trading instruments, and automatic trading features.

Chart types and timeframes

Charts are among the most important features of any trading software as they represent the historical data of price movements and enable traders to conduct technical analysis. For that reason, a large space of the interface in MetaTrader and cTrader programs is allocated for this feature.

Trading on MetaTrader 5

In MT4 and MT5, as we already mentioned, we have four individual charts for different assets, but traders can also maximize one chart if they want to. As for the charting types, both programs support line, bar, and candlestick charts. Changing one chart type to another is also similar: traders can either right-click the actual chart and choose the preferred type or go to the chart menu at the top-right corner and do the same.

MT5 vs cTrader

When it comes to the timeframes, the difference between MetaTrader 4 vs 5 becomes more apparent. MT4 has 9 timeframes: 4 minute-frames, 2 hour-frames, daily, weekly, and monthly frames. Meanwhile, MT5 offers 12 timeframes more - 21 in total: 11 minute-frames, 7 hour-frames, daily, weekly, and monthly frames.
Then there's a cTrader that only shows one chart in the middle of the screen. Unlike its counterparts, cTrader features three previous and one additional chart type - dots chart. Like MT software, however, a right-click on the mouse can change the chart types pretty easily. As for the timeframes, cTrader offers 26 timeframes: 14 minute-frames, 7 hour-frames, 3 day-frames, weekly, and monthly frames.

Available trading instruments

Originally, when MT4 was created, it was dedicated to Forex trading. Since there are around 200 Forex pairs on this market, the brokers could easily offer these instruments in their software. As for other instruments, brokers can still incorporate them in MT4 but the software will limit the amount actually incorporated.
In MT5, the limitation is still present but it allows for more instruments than its predecessor. This way, traders can use even more stocks, futures, commodities for their new orders. In both MT4 and MT5, traders can select new instruments in the Market Watch window on the left side of the screen. In MT4, one has to double-click the mouse in the blank space, while MT5 has a dedicated Plus button for it.
In the comparison between cTrader vs MT4 or MT5, the former allows a more straightforward method of selecting new instruments: on the left side of the screen, there is a Trade window with Watchlist and All Symbols sub-menus. In the All Symbols Sub-menu, traders can see the Popular Markets category, as well as 10 individual asset categories, including Metals, Energies, Forex, and more.

Automatic trading

The next important feature in our discussion is automatic trading. In MetaTrader applications, both MT4 and MT5, traders use Expert Advisors - manually coded programs - for various automated tasks, including technical analysis of price data and, of course, opening/closing positions on given instruments.
If we compare MT4 to MT5, the main difference between their Expert Advisors would still come down to the programming language they use. Since MQL4 has been around for longer than MQL5, there are more pre-written scripts and codes that traders can use for creating their personal Expert advisors, even if they don’t have knowledge in programming. However, MQL5 is a simpler programming language and therefore, creating new scripts themselves is easier with it.
As for cTrader, it also offers similar programs to the Expert Advisors - they are called the cBots. As we have mentioned earlier, cTrader uses a well-known C# programming language which, in theory, means that out of all three languages - MQL4, MQL5, and C# - it is the most universal one with a large consumer base.

However, in reality, cBots are less popular than Expert Advisors (EAs) and here’s why: the online trading community behind EAs is larger than that of cBots which translates into more pre-existing templates for MT4/MT5 vs cTrader.


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MetaTrader 4 vs 5 vs cTrader - Key takeaways

MetaTrader 4 and 5 - developed by MetaQuotes, and cTrader - developed by Spotware, are pieces of software used for trading, be it in Forex, stocks, commodities, or other markets. In this guide, we compared them to one another in terms of design differences, programming languages, as well as the actual trading features like charts, timeframes, etc.
In terms of design, MT4 and MT5 are almost exactly the same - four charts taking the majority of the screen, while market watch, trading instruments, and other windows have less space in the interface. In cTrader, there is only one chart in the center, leaving enough space for trading instruments and other features.
As for the programming language, MT4 and MT5 use MQL4 and MQL5 respectively, while cTrader uses a more common C# language. This means that automatic trading, various scripts, and indicators are designed in those languages.
All of these programs support 3 main chart types - line, bar, and candlestick - but cTrader also features dots chart. When it comes to the timeframes, MT4 offers 9, MT5 21, and cTrader 28 different intervals.
All in all, this comparison between cTrader vs MT5 vs MT4 still comes down to personal preferences because all of them offer every basic feature that is needed for trading. As for which platform is for whom, the beginners usually use MT4 for its simplicity and the availability of many pre-existing scripts, while more experienced traders tend to go with either MT5 or cTrader.

Frequently asked questions

Which one is better: MT4 or MT5?

Whether MetaTrader 4 is better than MetaTrader 5 depends on the user of the platform. Some people prefer simplicity and easy-to-use tools in MT4 and some people like the complex nature of MT5.

That is pretty much how any trader should choose a trading software: if they’re somewhat beginners and want a software that can function at the most basic level, then MT4 would usually be a better option. Since it has been around for almost 15 years, this program is well-known to the trading community and they have created many modifications that can simplify the trading process even more.

But if you are a more experienced trader and want to have more control over timeframes, services, and other features, maybe MT5 would be a better solution for you. While the design is pretty much the same, MT5 is still different from MT4 because it allows traders to choose from 21 timeframes, whereas MT4 only has 9. But again, some people would find one program more suitable, while others would prefer the second one.

Should I start trading with MetaTrader 4 or cTrader?

When comparing MetaTrader 4 to cTrader, we should admit that many differences come down to personal preferences and that both programs are perfectly usable for trading. However, there are still some considerable differences to keep in mind.

For example, if you want to trade symbols other than Forex pairs, it’s usually a good idea to use cTrader as MT4 is limited to Forex pairs and just a number of other securities, while cTrader has lots of other available symbols, whereas if we compare cTrader vs MT5, both of them are quite flexible in this sense. 

As for the interface of these programs, cTrader has a more modern-looking design and allows traders to toggle between light and dark themes, whereas MetaTrader 4 has a retro look with white and grey windows. Again, the design choice comes down to personal choice.

As for a recommendation, beginners should probably use MT4 because of its simplicity and fewer features, while more experienced traders would probably need more indicators, tools, and charting timeframes that can be found in cTrader.

Can I trade without trading platforms?

Yes, you can. Back in the day, when there were no household computers or smartphones, traders used simple phone calls to their brokers for trading. They would make a call, tell the broker to open a position for them and make changes in the same method.

You can certainly use this method today. However, the phone call trading is much slower and offers less control over the positions than the one that performs trading on MetaTrader vs any other software program. With trading software, traders can open/close/change positions quickly and can monitor their positions in real-time. Therefore, trading without software is possible but not very efficient.

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