About a month or so ago, I wrote a post describing the details of my trading computer. However, as you know, a computer with great hardware setup doesn't mean much unless you have the right software in relation to how you trade. So this here will be the second installment of the "Trading Desk". For future purposes it will be posted in the "Newbies" section found on the menu bar above.
What I'd like to do here is go over all the software that I use for trading and some of the stuff I use for blogging.
I have used a myriad of different brokers from TradeStation to TD Ameritrade to E-Trade, just to name a few. But for now, I am using ThinkorSwim, which is now owned by TDAmeritrade, but since the acquisition, TD has not done anything to screw-up the company. So that is a good thing. I find the execution to be fairy good and the platform has a million different ways to place an order, from a simple online form to graphic interfaces. For the purposes of shorting stocks, I don't typically have a hard time locating shares to borrow, and when there is a problem, I will contact the trading desk using a chat feature on the platform and they will 9 times out of 10 locate some shares to borrow.
Customer service is also pretty solid, very friendly, and the commissions on trades are negotiable. Right now, based on the amount of trading I do a month, I pay a flat fee of $8. If you are a smaller trader in terms of the average amount of shares you buy, you can often times get away with $5 shares, which is the bare minimum you can pay for an equity transaction (as long as you don't buy/short 333 shares on the trade). You can choose either a $9.99 Flat Fee for trading or 1.5 cents per share. The latter of which gets you a $5 trade if you don't trade too many shares. However, whether you are trading in big lots or not, you are forced to use 1.5 cents/share no matter what if you use a stop-order. So if you are trading in a stock that has a low share price, and you buy 5000 shares of it, your transaction cost will be $75 to place the trade. So before you decide to do such a thing, call ThinkorSwim and negotiate your price. At worst all your trades will be at $9.99/trade, but you can expect it to be lower if you place around 30 or more shares a month (an educated guess).
Overall, they are a good broker. About 95% of the tools they offer on the software platform (they have a web-based one as well) are useless for me, probably because I don't trade in options, but I do like their charts, and the ability to customize them, which is a huge plus.
I don't have experience with every screener that is out there, but I do have experience with quite a few of them, and plainly stated, most companies that advertise a stock screener of their own, usually turns out to be a piece of garbage. However, Worden's Telechart and StockFinder is pretty darn good. I pay about $110 each month for the software and the data feed. While it has more options and features than I'll ever be able to use, their latest version, 5.0, which is fairly new, is quite buggy, and has a tendency to crash quite a bit. Sometimes it will even erase my layouts, of which, I will pull out a duplicate of from archives.
They also provide you with the ability to write your own indicators, create your index, and use an indicator for practically any purpose you desire. If it wasn't for great stock ideas I am able to generate from this software, I would have gotten rid of it a long time a go due to it crashing about once a day (that's a lot). However, for now, it is worth the headache. I also use this software for keeping track of my watch-lists, since it is very easy to organize the stocks I am keeping an eye on, while also ranking them, and being able to transport ideas from the software itself to an excel spreadsheet.
I am a big fan of Mozilla Firefox. Folks tend to be pretty passionate about the browser that they use. I am one of them. I can't stand using Explorer. Though it has improved over the past couple of years, it still seems slower, websites don't always load as fast, and the pages sometimes aren't loaded correctly. Firefox has always been fairly consistent and stable for me, and they typically are ahead of the pack when it comes to ground-breaking new features. Now, if I couldn't use Firefox anymore, I'd probably switch over to Google Chrome, which has a great browser as well, and one I could see overtaking Firefox in the long run.
While I primarily use StockFinder for this as well, I do use StockCharts.com for the posting of my charts. One thing I do not like though, is their historical prices on stock charts tend to be off at times compared to the prices shown on StockFinder. The reason for this is that StockCharts adjusts the prices of price history to equate for dividend distribution. I wish they wouldn't do that, because it can really cause some significant discrepancies in what all the other charts are trying to say. However, for annotating a chart and publishing it, StockCharts are by far the best.
I use twitter to communicate with other traders and will also try to provide my trades real-time through this platform as a result. However, I use an app for my Tweets, called HootSuite. It gives me a real-time look at all the tweets from those I am following, as well as those who are re-tweeting my messages. If you have a URL you want to tweet, it will shrink it for you, so you don't go over the 140 character limit.
The last thing I want to have happen to me, is find out that my computer's hard drive no longer works. That would not make me an overly happy person. So then, I use Acronis True Image to back up my hard drive a few times each week. It is great, because it works in the background, and I never know it is running.
To protect my computer from viruses, malware and spyware, I use a ESET Smart Security. Unlike its rivals McAfee, Norton and Symantec, ESET runs quietly in the background, does not consume hardly any resources and is constantly scanning in real-time any threats to your computer. They are pretty cheap too, only costing under $100 a year. I've used Kaspersky too, and they do a good job as well. But just stay away from the Big-Three. I've always had plenty of trouble with them.
Windows 7 is running on my machine right now, and it is by far better than Vista or XP. I haven't seen any problems with it since I had it installed, and the look is fresh, smart, and accommodating. Definitely worth the upgrade.
As you can see, I don't spend much money on things I don't really use. There is a lot of free tools out there that you can capitalize on, such as Finviz.com. For most people, this is by far more stuff than they will ever need, but nonetheless, it has a lot of features that I am really able to capitalize on. I plan on still doing another post on websites I visit and follow, so be on the lookout for that in the coming weeks.