MetaTrader 4 vs 5 vs cTrader - Differences and similarities

In Forex, traders are using trading softwares that can be installed on computers, mobile trading apps and web terminals to place trading orders. The most popular trading platforms today are called MetaTrader 4, MetaTrader 5, and cTrader.

MetaTrader platforms were developed by MetaQuotes, and they are older than cTrader. However, MT4 and MT5 are highly reliable that makes them the most popular platforms among Forex traders today. These platforms have their strengths and weaknesses. MT4 is a more simplistic and limited software that offers only 9 timeframes to choose from, whereas MT5 has 21 timeframes. However, MT4 is more popular with Forex traders as it's made for trading currency pairs highly reliably. MT5 is an all-in-one platform that enables access to stocks, cryptos, currencies, commodities, and other various asset classes. cTrader is a modern looking, user-friendly and reliable platform. Unfortunately, the platform is not as widely consumed as MetaTrader software programs.

cTrader was developed by Spotware. 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 for trading automation. MT4 and MT5 are using MQL4 and MQL5 respectively.

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MT4 vs MT5 vs cTrader - overview

When starting out trading, one of the most important decisions you need to make is to select the trading platform correctly. Your trading platform should suit your trading needs. For instance, if you are an algorithmic trader, your platform needs to have extensive capabilities for creating and adding trading robots, you require access to various trading algorithms that are developed in the market, etc. Technical traders require platforms that have a vast collection of tools for analyzing the markets and are user-friendly at the same time. Fundamental traders are less picky about technical tools, however, ideally they want integrated economic calendars. What's more, there are platforms that are limited to offering certain types of asset classes only. Let's take a look at the most popular trading software today: MetaTrader 4 (MT4), MetaTrader 5 (MT5), and cTrader.  All three of them have their strengths and weaknesses. 

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. MetaTrader 4 for beginners remains one of the best trading software programs due to its simplicity. The platform may look outdated, but its reliability is unchallenged, which can explain the platform's popularity. 
  • Five years later, in 2010, MetaQuotes released 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;
  • cTrader, was released in 2011 by Spotware Systems LTD. Like MT5, cTrader also included different securities and had more tools available. However, you cannot trade stocks or stocks as CFDs using this platform. Unlike MetaTrader programs, cTrader had a different, more modern and comfy design. In addition, the software uses a common C# programming language for trading automation. It's worth mentioning that the cTrader platform is going through updates and a team of professionals are trying to improve it regularly, while MetaTrader platforms haven't changed much since their creation. 

It's worth mentioning that when traders are planning on trading different asset classes, MT5 alternatives are limited. MT5 is a great multi-asset platform. MT4 is a super reliable, popular Forex platform and cTrader is highly user-friendly with modern features and excellent execution.

Design differences

Since MT4 and MT5 were released by the same company, they have pretty much the same design.

MetaTrader 4 for beginners

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 gray 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, while the various tools and indicators are placed on the left and the bottom part of the screen.
cTrader vs MetaTrader offers a more modern-looking interface.  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 slick and user-friendly. Novice traders love using cTrader as it offers intuitive design.
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 who specialize in trading – can create new tools, scripts, and features for this program. Therefore, there are more possibilities for cTrader than MT4 or MT5.
New platform features of MT4, MT5 and cTrader
Trading platforms undergo frequent updates, introducing new features and resolving issues to stay abreast of the ever-changing landscape. Let's delve into a detailed discussion of these ongoing transformations.

MetaTrader 4 (MT4)
In the 2023 latest upgrade, MetaTrader 4 introduced significant enhancements: The changes are made on MetaMarket security, and the platform’s interface.
Market security improved: to operate the product, users and now required to be authorized on the platform using the same MQL5 account through which the product was purchased. The account must be specified under the tools/Options/Community section. Failure to specify a valid account will prevent the product from starting.
Improved user interface translations: The user interface translations have been updated to ensure a more seamless and user-friendly experience.
The platform stability has improved in 2023 updates.
MetaTrader 5 (MT5)
MT5 had major design improvements in 2023 for trading reports. The added display of monthly funds growth can be accessed in new trading reports. To view the report go to Summary report and click on the Balance mode.

In addition, deposit and withdrawal pages got improved. And optimized recalculations of financial operations throughout the entire platform, including strategy tester. As a result, profit, margins, and many other platforms are now calculated faster.

Moreover, the web terminal also got various improvements. In 2023, developers added a section “Contact Broker” that traders can use to directly communicate with the customer support.

Traders now can use the platforms to deposit and withdraw funds directly from their trading platforms.
cTrader experiences more frequent upgrades than MetaTrader platforms. The latest build introduced Overlay Indicators, Integrated IDEs for Algo Developers, and Backtesting and Market Replay Reports. Thanks to the upgrades, traders have the flexibility to determine the placement of indicators within the trading window. Furthermore, different indicators can be combined.

Another important upgrade is Markey Replay Reports and Backtesting Export capabilities. Traders now have the capability to seamlessly export, open and share their backtesting or market replay reports with fellow traders.

Furthermore, for enhanced PC RAM optimization, you have the option to run cBots in a distinct external process, separately from the cTrader desktop app. Simply right-click on a cBit and select “Start in external process”. As a result, you can close the cTrader app while your cBot seamlessly operates independently. Additionally, running a cBot in an external process is achievable via the CLI without the necessity of launching the cTrader Desktop, providing a teamlined and resource-efficient alternative.

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 in 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.

When comparing MT5 vs cTrader in terms of simplicity, beginner traders will find cTrader more comfortable. cTrader enables traders to easily calculate trade sizes and use various trading orders.

Available trading instruments

When comparing MetaTrader 5 vs cTrader in terms of trading instruments, it's worth mentioning that MT5 was created for trading various asset classes, while cTrader is mainly for trading forex. Some cTrader brokers even offer CFDs on some cryptos, indices, and commodities.

Originally, when MT4 was created, it was dedicated to Forex trading. And still, in modern times, the platform remains highly dedicated to trading Forex pairs. As for other instruments, the number is not as great as in the case of MT5 and cTrader, however, traders can easily download the desired trading robot or indicator from MetaTrader marketplace.
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.
When comparing 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 Watch list 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 watches, 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 typically 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 select 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. 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 gray 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 than what 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.

Is cTrader better than MT5?

Depends on whom you ask. cTrader is a great platform that has modern design and a highly user-friendly interface. On the downside, cTrader doesn't offer access to trading stocks. cTrader can be a great platform for beginner traders as well as professionals that are looking for a mixture of great performance and amazing visuals. MetaTrader 5 looks a bit outdated, however, you can trade various asset classes, including: Forex, stocks, futures, cryptos, indices, and commodities.

Is cTrader free?

Yes. Brokers provide access to free demo and live accounts to their clients. Usage of the platform is free, however, some brokers have inactivity fees and make sure you learn about your broker's policies before you open an account. If the platform is free to use, you might be wondering who pays for the platform to keep updating. Well, traders are the ones that indirectly pay for the platform improvements. Brokers collect revenue by charging their clients with spread markups, commissions, inactivity fees, etc. Part of your broker's revenue is spent on the trading platform. That is how Spotware Systems LTD (cTrader developer makes money in the market).

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