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.
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.
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.
The interface in both MT4 and MT5 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.