In this article I discuss the pros and cons of Excel as a trading platform.
A little History
Over the last 16 years of trading, I have used a lot of trading platforms: broker platforms, third party vendor platforms and small applications written by private programmers. One thing all these platforms have had in common is that at some point I had a simple task or feature that was not already built in or impossible to implement.
As a long time user of Microsoft Excel, Excel became an obvious choice once Interactive Brokers began supporting excel with their API. I am not a programmer by formal education; however the learning curve for programming VBA for Excel is very fast. The key for me was buying a few great Excel books and using them for reference.
Why Excel may not be the best choice:
- Even standard (free) broker platforms a capable of a lot. If your trading strategies are not complex for example you only want to be able to enter stop losses and limit orders before going to work, there would be little reason to use excel as a trading platform.
- Excel can be a little too slow for scalping (entering and exiting within seconds), occasionally I have seen lag of a few seconds before excel begins sending the order.
- Although the learning curve is quick it does require a lot of time to program, error proof and test your work.
- For non Windows users or users wanting to change to another operating system, Excel would not be a likely choice.
Why Excel may be the best choice:
- Most people have at least some familiarity with Microsoft Excel. Any previous experience greatly decreases the learning curve.
- You can do almost anything in Microsoft excel. There has never been anything that I wanted to do in Excel that was impossible. I may have initiallythought it was impossible, but in the end I always found a way.
- There are fantastic resources to get help writing code. I have often asked questions on the Mr. Excel forums and received fast answers from professional programmers.
- Contrary to what many believe, you can create great charts in Microsoft excel. (The charts I post on this blog are in Excel!)
Save Money! If you already own it then you save a lot of money by not having to pay for expensive trading platforms or charting programs
Is it the best choice?
For someone with little or no programming experience but who wants to implement complex trading strategies with a high degree (limitless?) of complexity and customization Excel may be the perfect choice. It certainly has been for me.