MetaTrader 4 (MT4) is one of the most popular forex trading platforms used by millions of traders worldwide. Developed by MetaQuotes Software, MT4 offers advanced charting tools, automated trading options, backtesting capabilities, and more to enhance your forex trading experience.
In this comprehensive guide, we dive into pro tips and best practices for mastering MT4 and getting the most out of this powerful trading platform. Whether you’re a new trader just getting started or a seasoned pro looking to step up your game, read on to boost your skills and results with MetaTrader 4.
Getting Started with MetaTrader 4
Downloading and Installing MT4
The first step is to download and install MT4 on your desktop or laptop. MetaTrader 4 is available on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices. You’ll need to open an account with a forex broker that supports the platform in order to access it. Major brokers like Forex.com, OANDA, and Pepperstone offer MT4 alongside their proprietary platforms.
Once your account is open, head to the broker’s website and find the MT4 download. Install the trading platform, then open it and log in with your broker-provided credentials. The MT4 login is separate from your main website login.
Navigating the MT4 Interface
The MetaTrader 4 interface consists of these key elements:
- Market Watch – Monitor and trade currency pairs and other instruments from this window.
- Navigator – View all available trading tools including indicators, advisors, and scripts.
- Terminal – Where live trades, accounts history, alerts, and messages appear.
- Charts – Advanced price charting with timeframes and analytical tools.
- Toolbar – Quick access to one-click trading, charts, profiles, and help tools.
- Menu Bar – Access options and settings for the platform.
Spend some time clicking around and getting comfortable with platform navigation and layout before moving on. Customizing your layout is covered more in the following sections.
Customizing Your MT4 Trading Experience
One major advantage of MetaTrader 4 is the high degree of customization available. Tweak the look and feel to match your trading process and style.
Adjusting Your Workspace
You can resize windows, undock charts, add and remove elements, and save custom workspace layouts in MT4:
Resize windows – Click and drag window edges to expand or contract modules. Resize the Market Watch, Navigator, Terminal, and Charts for optimal viewing.
Undock charts – Right-click a chart and select “Undock” to view it full screen or side-by-side with other tools.
Add/remove elements – Add tabs like Tick Charts, Tick Volumes, or Account History in the Terminal window. Remove elements by right-clicking and selecting “Hide”.
Create custom workspaces – Arrange elements and save layouts in the Menu Bar by going to File > Save As… > Workspace. Access saved layouts from the Chart Window context menu.
Changing Interface Colors
MT4’s default black background may cause eye strain. Choose a more soothing color scheme:
Menubar – Select Tools > Options > Charts tab to pick a background color and foreground (text) color.
Individual elements – Right click and choose “Properties” on the Market Watch, Navigator, etc. to pick colors.
Full theme – Import color schemes and themes created by other users from the Community website.
Matching colors to your trading style can set the mood – try red for aggressive trading or blue for conservative.
Setting Up Your Charts
Charts are arguably the most important element of MT4. Optimizing your charts will make technical analysis more efficient:
- Timeframes – Add charts in 1 minute, 5 minute, 1 hour, 4 hour, daily, and weekly timeframes to see the big picture.
- Indicators – Plot popular indicators like moving averages, Bollinger Bands, RSI, and MACD. Apply templates to add pre-made indicator sets.
- Drawing tools – Use lines, arrows, and shapes to mark support/resistance, trends, and patterns on the charts.
- Templates – Save customized chart layouts with timeframes, indicators, and drawings applied for quick reloading.
Keeping key charts readily available will minimize fumbling when you need to consult different timeframes or indicators in the heat of trading.
Executing Trades with MT4
Now for the fun part – executing live trades with MetaTrader 4! There are a few ways to enter and exit trades on the platform:
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Trading from the Market Watch and Chart
The simplest method is to click in the bid or ask price on a currency pair in the Market Watch or Chart window and select:
- Buy – Go long at the ask price
- Sell – Go short at the bid price
- Close – If you already have a position, this exits at market price
Adjust trade size in lot units based on account leverage using the Volume control.
Opening Positions with Pending Orders
For trades that require entry at a future price, use pending orders:
- Buy Limit – Long above current price
- Sell Limit – Short above current price
- Buy Stop – Long below current price
- Sell Stop – Short below current price
Enter the price and lot size, then click “Place”. The order appears under Terminal > Trade tab and triggers when price reaches the specified level.
To manually exit an open trade:
Right-click chart – Close by right-clicking directly on the position line shown on the chart.
Trade tab – Click the “X” in the Terminal trade tab interface to close a position.
Partial close – To only close a portion of the trade, adjust the volume and use the partial close option.
Letting trades run to profit targets and stop losses set upon entry is also an option.
Modifying and Canceling Orders
Under the Terminal Trade tab:
Modify – Adjust stop losses, take profits, and pending order levels of active trades.
Cancel – Delete pending orders before they trigger if no longer desired.
Fine tune position management on the fly as charts and price action develop.
Trailing Stops and BREAK EVEN
Lock in profits and limit losses using automatic trailing stops in MT4:
Enable trailing stop – Check the box and set the distance in pips when opening trades.
Break Even – An Expert Advisor that automatically moves stops to entry price once profit target is reached.
Trailing stop EA – More complex Expert Advisors that trail stops based on volatility or other logic.
Trailing stops are key for smooth exits – don’t forget to use them!
Backtesting Trading Systems
The strategy tester and backtesting features in MetaTrader 4 are ideal for developing and evaluating mechanical trading systems:
- Input strategy parameters – Code indicators, rules, and logic to research. Import custom MQL4 scripts or EAs.
- Optimize settings – Optimize key criteria like entry rules, stop loss, take profit etc. MT4 tests all combinations.
- Run backtest – See detailed statistics on performance over historical price data for the instrument.
- Forward test – Run the strategy forward in real-time and demo trade it before risking capital.
Robust backtesting ensures your system is profitable and stable before going live.
Optimizing and Forward Testing
Optimization and forward testing are vital steps in evaluating mechanical systems:
- Optimization – Finds the optimal inputs that maximize performance metrics on historical data. Avoid over-optimization.
- Forward testing – Runs the system forward on new price data to confirm it still works. Do this before real money.
- Multiple pairs – Test on a variety of instruments and timeframes. A system should work across markets.
- Multiple market conditions – Evaluate performance in up, down, flat, volatile markets. Adjust for robustness.
Don’t fall in love with a system until rigorous optimization and forward testing under different market scenarios.
Automated Trading Bots and Expert Advisors
Expert Advisors (EAs) allow full or semi-automated forex trading by coding strategies, and letting the program execute trades automatically based on programmed logic.
Benefits of Automated Trading
- Removes emotion – EAs trade systematically without fear or greed.
- You can backtest – Validate that the programmed strategy is profitable.
- Improves discipline – Follows set rules and stick to systems.
- Trades around the clock – Algorithms monitor markets even when you sleep.
- Scalability – Automated systems can handle multiple accounts and load size.
When developed properly, EAs effectively leverage the benefits of mechanical trading.
Tips for Running EAs Successfully
Follow best practices when using automated bots:
- Cautiously backtest over sufficient historical data first.
- Start with small trade size to evaluate real-world performance.
- Use conservative stop loss and leverage levels. Beware over-optimization.
- Monitor account regularly for robustness and deviations.
- Code in loss limits and risk management logic.
- Have backup internet and power to keep the EA running smoothly.
With the right risk management, EAs can consistently execute your proven strategy.
Getting Help, Community, and Additional Resources
Lastly, be sure to tap into the wealth of learning resources available:
- MetaTrader Help – Access built-in platform help guides and documentation.
- MQL4 Community – Connect with developers and users of EAs, indicators, and scripts.
- Forums and blogs – Join forums and read trading blogs to stay on top of new techniques.
- MetaQuotes Site – Visit the developer’s site for updates, tutorials, and tips.
- Online courses – Enroll in courses teaching MT4 tools, automation, and system building.
Embrace continuous improvement – there are always new MT4 tricks and skills to develop!
FAQ About Mastering MetaTrader 4
Can I use MT4 on Mac, Linux, tablets, or phones?
Yes, MT4 has versions for Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS. This allows trading via desktop, laptop, tablets, and smartphones. Install the specialized mobile or tablet apps for smaller devices.
Is MT4 free?
The MT4 platform is free to download and use. However, you need an account with a broker to access live markets. Brokers offer MT4 alongside proprietary platforms. Fees depend on spreads, commissions, and account terms set by the broker.
What is the MQL4 language and community?
MQL4 is the programming language used to code automated systems like EAs, custom indicators, and scripts on MetaTrader 4. The MQL4 community consists of programmers who develop and share these tools for MT4 on forums.
Can I connect MT4 to my broker’s proprietary platform for one account balance?
Some brokers with their own platform allow linking your user account to MT4 for unified access. For example, OANDA allows linking a fxTrade practice account to MT4. Other brokers keep MT4 accounts separate. Check with your broker’s policies.
How can I be profitable using MT4 automated trading?
Carefully backtest EAs, avoid over-optimization, and forward trade on a demo before going live. Start with small position size and conservative risk management. Monitor performance and be ready to intervene if the EA deviates or struggles. Robust mechanical strategies can execute consistently.
What resources are available for improving my MT4 skills?
MetaQuotes offers learning materials on their website along with forums to connect with other users. Numerous blogs and online video courses are available for learning MT4. Joining a trading community helps stay current on new techniques. Consume a variety of active learning resources.
Mastering MetaTrader 4 requires applying specialized tools like advanced charts, backtesting, and automation alongside effective trading fundamentals. Approach MT4 as a lifelong journey rather than a single destination. Experiment often, tap into available resources, and keep honing your craft. Leverage the full power of this versatile platform to take your trading to the next level.
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