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MetaTrader 4 (MT4), developed by MetaQuotes, is an electronic trading platform favored by retail forex traders around the world. The impact of MetaTrader 4 has been huge and it’s popularity has grown tremendously. In fact, even though a newer version, MetaTrader 5, is now out, MT4 is still preferred by most traders.

MT4 is popular because it is a powerful, flexible and free tool that allows back-testing, automated trading and charting. Here’s how to get started.

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1 – Download the demo

To trade with MetaTrader it needs to be connected to a broker on the back end so the first thing to do is to find a good broker such as and download a demo of the software.

Once downloaded, MT4 can be installed straight on to your computer into its own folder.

Unfortunately MT4 currently doesn’t work too well with Mac’s, however.

2 – Open the account

After you open MT4 for the first time, you will need to fill in your account details. This connects you to your broker and it’s also where you specify important details such as leverage, account type and your deposit. On the demo account you can set your deposit to any value.

After clicking next, MT4 will then attempt to connect to the server and show a ping rate, revealing the strength of the connection.

3 – Customise the interface

MetaTrader 4 looks confusing at first but it’s not hard to pick up and the screen layout can be customised to your choice. A good idea is to first open up the Market Watch screen (CTRL +M) which will bring up a list of currency symbols. Right clicking on any of these will give you the option to load up it’s chart into the main window.

Symbols can also be added by going to File>New Chart.

Once you have a few charts up, head over to Window>Tile vertically and this will lay out all your charts with even spacing. You can have as many charts as you like using MT4 which works if you have more than one screen.

To customise the charts further there is a panel just below the top toolbar that reveals the chart periods; M1 (1 minute), M5, M15, M30, H1, H4, D1, W1 and MN are available. You can then use the combinations ALT+1, ALT +2 and ALT +3 to cycle through the different chart display options.

4. Trading

Right clicking on a quote in the Market Watch panel also leads to the option for opening a new order on the chosen currency. You can do it this way or you can select the chart window of your choice and click the new order icon in the top toolbar. MT4 typically has more than one way of doing things.

Once the new order window is up you can enter your buy or sell decision, lot size, stop loss and take profit level.

Further reading:  Coding your first expert advisor – Principles