The habits of successful investors vary depending on what an individual invests in, their strategy, and their overall timeframe. Long-term index investors or those who want to earn passive income may only need to perform basic research before choosing an investment. Then, they may monitor the investment casually rather than digging into the details.
On the other hand, active traders often analyze news, trends, charts, and other factors that could impact their active trading strategy. To investigate their positions in less time, many active traders turn to stock analysis tools. Here are eight of the top trading tools for active traders who want to further their knowledge of the stock market.
8 tools for stock trading analysis
Stock trading tools can work in very different ways. Some require spending significant time to learn how the tool works. Others may be more intuitive but charge a fee to access the tools.
1. Atom Finance
Atom Finance wants to help people make informed decisions about their money by making investing tools more accessible to everyday investors. It offers a free subscription and a $9.99 per month paid subscription with a 30-day free trial. The free subscription includes limited access to the tool’s features.
Atom Finance offers a trading dashboard to view your investments in real-time and allows you to compare metrics across several companies. It also screens for companies that match your investment style based on those metrics. You can even create financial models to test assumptions to see how they impact the valuations of companies.
With this tool, you get access to professional news sources, analyst estimates and recommendations, and equity research. You can also chat with verified shareholders.
TradingView is a chart-focused tool that offers a free option as well as three tiers of paid subscriptions. The free tool gives you access to market quotes, an investment screener with a wide variety of filters to choose from, and an interactive chart tool with a vast amount of customization options.
TradingView’s tools seem intuitive and user friendly with a visually appealing user interface. Some of the downsides to using the free charting tools are the constant pop-ups asking you to upgrade to a paid subscription and the fact you can’t save charts without an account.
The paid subscriptions come with a free 30-day trial. After the trial, they cost anywhere from $14.95 to $59.95 per month, or $155 to $599 per year if you select the annual option. Paid tiers give you an ad-free experience, additional chart options, more historical data, chart indicators, multiple charts in a layout, server-side alerts, custom time intervals, enhanced watchlists, bar replay on intraday bars, volume profile indicators, faster data flow, customer support, and many more advanced features.
TradeStation is an online trading tool that offers stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), futures, options, cryptocurrency, and other trading options. It focuses on providing its clients with research and insights to make smart financial investments rather than investing based on intuition.
As far as tools go, TradeStation offers three platforms which include desktop, mobile, and web-based products. The downloadable desktop version is the most powerful, but the web and mobile app options still provide plenty of features when you can’t access a desktop.
The desktop version features investment screening with 180 technical and fundamental indicators, charting and analysis tools, strategy backtesting, built-in trading apps (which may charge a fee), and a simulated trading mode to test ideas without committing money.
TradeStation makes money through fees on options, futures, futures Micro E-Mini, futures options, mutual funds, bonds, and other trades.
NinjaTrader is a trading platform that you can access for free as long as you have a funded account with the NinjaTrader Brokerage. The platform focuses on futures, options, and forex trading. The free version gives you access to its core essentials, including advanced charting, market analysis, and the ability to perform simulated trading.
For newer investors, a simulated trading service lets you simulate how your automated trading systems would have worked based on past performance. You can even pause, rewind, and replay market activity to see how it happened in real-time. This can be a valuable learning tool for those not ready to fully dive into day trading yet, though it's important to remember that past performance isn't necessarily an indicator of future results.
NinjaTrader offers paid tiers, as well. You can lease the software on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis for $225, $425, and $720, respectively. This service level gives you access to use a handful of brokerages and several trading tools such as chart trader, order entry hotkeys, automated trading, and backtesting. You can use several trading software add-ons based on your needs, too.
You can choose to own the software rather than leasing it. This gives you free upgrades for life and access to order flow information. This level costs four monthly payments of $329 or a single $1,099 payment. The tool’s paid versions are for dedicated active investors and would probably not be the best fit for a casual active trader.
5. Fidelity Active Trader Pro
Fidelity’s Active Trader Pro software is free as long as you have a brokerage account with Fidelity. The software helps you make smarter investing decisions with features such as:
- Technical, social sentiment, and other market filters
- The ability to place trades and pre-save orders
- Portfolio monitoring with streaming quotes and real-time gain and loss information
- Customizable watch lists
- Personalized layouts to view market information that’s important to you
- Many other features that can help you map out your short-term and long-term investing strategies
The software provides a setup feature to help you pick the layout that’s best for you. It will teach you quick tips to get started and provides access to educational videos to learn more. Active Trader Pro offers predefined layouts you can choose from too.
6. TD Ameritrade thinkorswim
Tools such as TD Ameritrade’s trading platform thinkorswim are one reason you may decide to choose a brokerage service over another option on our list. The platform is available on desktop, web, and mobile. The desktop software is fully customizable and provides the most in-depth option of the three.
You can trade equities, options, options on futures, ETFs, futures, and forex on thinkorswim. You get access to more than 400 technical studies and charts as well as 20 drawings with 8 Fibonacci tools.
TD Ameritrade’s thinkScript allows you to build order execution and strategic testing algorithms to help you discover how potential scenarios may work. You can also screen investments using Stock Hacker based on fundamental, technical, options-related information, and custom attributes.
The desktop platform allows you to register for paperMoney, a way to practice trading $100,000 in virtual money without the risk of losing a dime. Of course, you aren’t making trades so you can’t earn money, either. You can set up custom alerts and track social sentiment with thinkorswim, as well.
FINVIZ, short for financial visualizations, is a mostly free stock trading analysis tool. The website’s homepage gives you a big-picture view of the market activity for the day, news, and top and worst performers.
FINVIZ offers a stock screener tool to help you find investments you may be interested in. You have a massive number of options to sort through the investment information in its database. However, the possibilities and the multitude of information on each screen can be overwhelming for newer investors.
It allows you to register for a free account if you want to track a limited portfolio, though you’ll need to deal with advertisements on the site if you opt for a free account. The tool requires you to manually input your positions, which can be cumbersome.
Other helpful tools include investment maps to visually view the market and groups to see how industries are performing, insider trading, futures, forex, and crypto reports. The platform’s information is not real-time during the trading day and instead is displayed on a delay.
If you pay for its premium service, FINVIZ Elite, you get an ad-free experience and access to backtesting to see how your strategies would have performed based on historical data. You also get real-time data, advanced charts, email alerts, a more extended history of statements, more portfolios, screener presets, and other features. This costs $39.50 per month or $299.50 for a yearlong subscription paid in advance.
StockCharts offers both free and paid options to use its charting tools. If you just need access to basic charts, the free level gives you an ad-supported experience with a modest chart width, three technical indicators, and three technical overlays per chart.
Paid plans give you an ad-free experience and range from $14.95 to $39.95 per month. Data plans may add to those monthly fees, depending on the real-time market data you want access to. That said, there is a free U.S. data plan with better alternative trading system (BATS) real-time data for only U.S. markets that comes with paid plans. All other markets provide delayed data if you don’t pay for the applicable data subscription.
Paid subscriptions get access to more technical indicators and technical overlays per chart, intraday charting, available real-time data, saved chart storage, wider chart widths, advanced technical scanning and alerts, auto-refresh intervals, chart lists, historical price data, members-only commentary, and several other features advanced traders may find useful.
FAQs about trading tools
What trading tools do active traders use?
Active traders use tools to gain additional insight into the investments they trade to make smarter trading decisions. This knowledge often comes in charts, analyst reports, financial filings, and other investment-specific tools. In addition to knowledge, active traders and day traders use screeners and alerts to know when specific scenarios occur so they can take advantage of opportunities.
What's the best trading software for beginners?
The best trading software for beginners depends on your expertise and trading goals. Beginner active traders may feel more comfortable with trading software that isn’t as complex until they thoroughly understand it. Then they can move on to more detailed and expert-level trading tools once their knowledge expands.
What are some good tools for technical analysis?
The best tools for technical analysis are the ones that provide the information you’re looking for on the investments you’re interested in. Not all tools have access to the same information or analysis parameters. Research each tool to see whether it offers the information you need. Then select the tool that provides the best value when considering prices and options.
The bottom line on trading tools
Trading tools can help active investors find investment opportunities they may not have otherwise known existed. As an investor learning how to invest money, you have several stock analysis tools to choose from. These include both free and paid options, and our list is a good place to start if you’re researching trading tools.
Before you choose, figure out your active investing goals first. Then decide what tools you need to help you reach those goals. If a free tool provides the same value as a paid tool, it doesn’t make much sense to increase your costs. However, paid investing tools may give you an edge that helps you earn more profit than you could without them. Ultimately, you must decide which investing tools fit your needs best. Remember that all investments come with the risk of loss, no matter which tools you use.