What Is the Best Trading Software for Mac?

Using TradeStation as my charting platform always stopped me switching from a Windows computer to an Apple Mac – well not any more!

I made the move over 5 years ago and have never looked back. If you’ve ever wanted to get off the Microsoft treadmill but were a TradeStation die hard (like these traders on Big Mike’s forum) then this feature article will help you take the leap. Read on.

“I found your site when my Dell crashed last year and I was searching for info on running TradeStation on a Mac. Without your generous guidance I would never have made the switch to a MacBook Pro.” Joe Russo, Elliott Wave Technology

“Just a short note of gratitude regarding your idea of Mac/Parallels/TradeStation. What a fantastic concept. I just purchased a MacBook and Parallels. Downloaded TradeStation and it works like a charm. It’s faster than my desktop, probably due to the Mac SS disc drive. So again, thanks.” Rick W.

When I finally ditched my Dell computers, I opted for the gorgeous Apple MacBook Pro 17. This is a nicely spec’d 17″ screen laptop with 4GB RAM standard that I upped to 8GB. I spend half the year travelling so a laptop was the only logical choice. I’m also not a fan of multiple monitors so a decent size and quality screen was a must.

Update January 2012 – New MacBook Pro 17″ with SSD

In April 2011 I upgraded to the latest version of the MacBook Pro 17. But then during the latter part of 2011 I was plagued with performance issues and decided to upgrade to the SSD (solid state drive) version of the machine while in California.

Then a “little birdie” told me that the 2011 MacBook Pro had processor problems and Apple quietly replaced that particular processor in late 2011. Well that explains everything! I was sold a lemon and I knew something was not right from the get-go. I’m glad I ditched my 2011 machine but lesson learned: Apple products can let you down.

I would highly recommend getting an SSD machine – runs quiet and fast. But what a pain it is to change machines. When will they make this easier?

Please note, the advice below should work equally well for laptop and desktop Apple Macs.

To run TradeStation on a Mac you need Parallels

image of TradeStation trading software running on my Apple Mac computerRunning TradeStation on a Mac relies on emulation software. The best is Parallels Desktop for Mac (now on Version 10). This very clever software allows you to run the Windows operating system simultaneously with the Mac operating system. It’s rock solid and fast.

Two caveats though. First, to run emulation software like this on a Mac, you’ll need one that has an Intel CPU (i.e. a recent Mac). Second, Parallels runs OK with 2 monitors but anything more than that and performance degrades with noticeable lag.

Although I opted to run the latest version of Parallels on my Mac it’s not your only choice. VMware Fusion is a competitor but in my research the reviews were not as favourable.

Macs also come with a built-in utility called Boot Camp. This allows you to partition the hard drive and install Windows along side the Mac operating system. The only drawback is that you can’t run the two operating systems simultaneously, unlike Parallels.

TradeStation performance on a Mac is excellent

So that’s how to run TradeStation on a Mac. What about the performance on a Mac? Boot up and chart opening times are very acceptable (and getting quicker with every update of Parallels and Mac hardware). Here are the stats when I first switched to a Mac:

  1. 40 seconds to start the Mac
  2. 3 seconds to start Parallels
  3. 60 seconds to start Windows 7
  4. 10 seconds to start and log into TradeStation
  5. 15 – 30 seconds to open one of my complex tick bar charts, and
  6. 1.5 seconds to open any other minute, hourly or daily chart.

Not bad. In addition it handles opening multiple, complex charts all-at-once and no crashes running TradeStation on the Mac. Something that plagued me frequently on my Dells running Windows.

I have a feeling that chart opening times, particularly tick bar charts, are more dependent on the speed of your Internet connection than the speed of your machine. These tests were run in Sydney, Australia, on a good broadband connection. But there’s still the slow hop across the Pacific that adds a delay for me.

The Pros of TradeStation on a Mac

So here are the Pros I see in running TradeStation on a Mac:

  • It works. No crashes and fast.
  • Able to open multiple tick bar charts simultaneously.
  • Real-time chart updating is fast too.
  • No fan noise and cool – to be honest I don’t even know if there is a fan!

And then there are the usual Pros of running a Mac. Most of us from the PC-world are familiar with these – we’ve seen the ads, right! But the things that have struck me are:

  • It just works – networking, installing/uninstalling applications, etc.
  • Beautifully engineered, no joins, no nooks and crannies to get dirty.
  • Very quick start up at about 30 – 40 seconds.
  • Seamless integration with iPhone, iPod, iPad, iTunes, etc.

Yes, no doubt Windows 7 has brought Microsoft a long way. But Apple’s holistic approach and superior engineering has resulted in a machine that almost runs Windows-native software better and faster than on a Windows machine! The Windows machine makers should be embarrassed.

The Cons of TradeStation on a Mac

OK. Enough of the Apple-gushy-enthusiasm. There have to be some Cons, right?

Well, yes. But rather than seeing these as Cons of running a Mac, I view them as adjustments I need to make. So here’s my list:

  • New keyboard layout means re-learning or re-assigning hotkeys. In TradeStation this allowed me to totally re-think my hotkey settings, so in time I should be a little faster. But then there are all the Mac-specific commands too.
  • “Finder” for managing documents and files is not as easy as Windows – at least at first glance. Yes, there are some nice graphic features like “Cover Flow” but I’m into speed and hotkeys. “Spotlight” (Command+Space on the Mac) appears to be a much faster way of accessing documents, files, applications, web, etc.
  • Apple-native versions of applications need to be found and functionality re-learned. And this takes time. Don’t underestimate the time you’ve invested in becoming proficient running programs like Word, Excel, etc. The Mac versions are different – in some cases, very different. Or jump straight into the Google Docs suite of cloud-based programs.

So it’s back to the classroom for a little homework. Scott D. recommended this book for PC switchers: Switching to the Mac – The Missing Manual by David Pogue.

Update October 2011 – MacKeeper rescued me

image of MacKeeper that I run with TradeStation on my MacOK, this is controversial. But I’m just telling you what worked for me. In October 2011, my Mac started playing up – running slow, spinning beach balls, excessive fan noise. The final straw was Gmail identified a virus on an outgoing email attachment. Well that started me thinking, maybe Macs can get viruses.

In the hunt to find a solution I have discovered MacKeeper. I ran it once and within minutes it identified and fixed a ton of issues – including 2 viruses. Well, the difference on my Mac is night and day. It now runs super fast and is super quiet again.

MacKeeper is not cheap at $90 but in my mind it’s priceless – I live on my Mac and it needs to run flawlessly. Don’t know what it fixed (despite querying the logs) but the software handles viruses, junk files, optimization tweaks, etc.

I couldn’t be happier. But some people think it’s a scam – I disagree.

Installing TradeStation on a Mac step-by-step

Before you start moving your TradeStation onto a Mac you’ll need a full version of MicroSoft Windows 7 Home Premium ($152-$199). An upgrade version is not good enough as Microsoft sees this as a brand new installation. You’ll also need a copy of Parallels Desktop ($80) as discussed above.

Then here are the steps for moving TradeStation from an old PC to a new Mac:

  1. Export your own ELD files from TradeStation (File > Import/Export EasyLanguage > Export EasyLanguage > Etc.)
  2. Backup your TradeStation workspaces and settings (File > Backup/Restore TradeStation > Backup TradeStation > Etc.)
  3. Copy these EasyLanguage and backup files, plus any purchased DLLs that live in the TradeStation Program folder, to your Mac
  4. Install Parallels Desktop on the Mac
  5. Start Parallels and install Windows 7
  6. Within Parallels and the Windows OS start Internet Explorer
  7. Log into your account at TradeStation.com and download the latest version of TradeStation (Client Login > Login > Download TradeStation Platform > Etc.)
  8. Start TradeStation and import your own ELD files into TradeStation (File > Import/Export EasyLanguage > Import EasyLanguage > Etc.)
  9. Restore your TradeStation workspaces and settings (File > Backup/Restore TradeStation > Restore TradeStation Archive > Etc.)
  10. Move any purchased DLLs back into the TradeStation Program folder on your Mac
  11. Check your Analysis Groups (Format > Manage Analysis Groups > Etc.)
  12. Re-assign your hotkeys, see below (View > Hotkeys > Etc.)

Lastly, I’d suggest installing an anti-virus/anti-spyware program in your Windows OS. My personal favourite is AVG because it’s light-weight, fast and less than $20.

Update November 2014 – Changed Parallels settings

image of Parallels settings I use to run trading software on MacI’m kind of embarrassed I didn’t know this. In Parallels, you can adjust how much CPU power and RAM you let your Windows virtual machine use. I noticed a little data bursting on my machine lately and so decided to investigate. And it turns out by increasing the CPU setting to 2 and RAM setting to 2GB I was able to make things run more smoothly.

To get to this settings window, turn off TradeStation and shut down your Windows virtual machine. Then within Parallels Desktop go Virtual Machine > Configure > General and you can toggle the number of CPUs and slide the RAM setting. Remember for everything extra you give your Windows machine, you take away from your Mac machine. So go gently with this stuff.

Here are my new TradeStation hotkey settings

The Mac keyboard layout forced me to re-think my hotkeys. Here’s what I’m using:

  • File > Close Workspace = W
  • File > New Window = Ctrl+N
  • File > New Workspace = N
  • File > Next Workspace = Fn+Right
  • File > Open Workspace = O
  • File > Previous Workspace = Fn+Left
  • File > Save Workspace = S
  • Format > Format Symbol = F
  • Pointers > Window Tracking = \
  • Pointers > Workspace Tracking = ]
  • Tools > Scroll One Page Left = Alt+Down
  • Tools > Scroll One Page Right = Alt+Up
  • Tools > Scroll to the Beginning = Alt+Left
  • Tools > Scroll to the End = Alt+Right

There you go. Just some initial thoughts on trading software for Mac and running TradeStation on a Mac. So far I’d rate it 9.5 out of 10. The only downside is the time it takes to adjust.

Update October 2010 – Rating drop from 9.5/10 to 9/10

It’s been 3 months now since I hopped the fence and moved to an Apple Mac. Rating after 3 months? 9 out of 10. Would I go back to Dell/Microsoft/Windows? Not on you life!

After 3 months I’m now “Mac-adapted”. I’ve gotten used to the new keyboard layout, various shortcuts and the Mac way of doing things. So I’m now pretty much up to speed productivity-wise. This does take some time – and I still have a nagging feeling that I’m missing some tricks.

TradeStation is 100% stable and fast on my Mac – and has been a real improvement over my old Dell machine. Which is a totally counter-intuitive conclusion!

So why did my rating drop from 9.5 to 9? My wife’s MacBook Pro 15″ hard drive got corrupted. I had to re-format and re-install the operating system. On the plus side, this process was fast and easy. An absolute must is to use an online backup service.

Check out the Simple 5 Step Trading Backup Plan.

Summary

This article should have convinced you that:

  • TradeStation works well on a Mac. Not only is it possible to run TradeStation on a Mac but it’s fast, stable and easy. I’d rate my experience of running TradeStation on a Mac between 9 and 9.5 out of 10. And make sure you get a Mac with SSD.
  • Parallels is the best emulation software solution. The secret is to use Parallels Desktop software to run the Windows operating system simultaneously with the Mac operating system. If you used Boot Camp you couldn’t run the operating systems concurrently.
  • Performance is solid. Boot up times and real-time chart refresh rates are fast and certainly no worse than on a Windows operating system machine.
  • But adjusting to a Mac takes time. You will need to re-learn and re-assign hotkey settings in TradeStation to make allowances for the different Mac keyboard layout. Plus you’ll have to find and adjust to all the Mac-native software, like Word, Excel, etc.

And thank you to all the Emini-Watch subscribers who contributed Mac trading suggestions.

This article is part of the Emini Trading: ‘How To’ Guides

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