Over the past ten years or so of slumping interest rates and poorly-performing pension funds, more people than ever have been casting their net wider in the quest for alternative investments that will realize a better yield. As such, many of us have become “amateur dabblers” in the world of trading.

Of course, it is not just the state of the economy that has caused this shift. The internet age has blown away much of the mystique that used to enshroud the world of trading in stocks, shares and Forex. Online platforms make it quick and easy to trade from your laptop or even your smartphone.

Probably the best known of these platforms is MetaTrader 4. This Windows-based trading platform was released more than ten years ago, and is also available for free download on iOS and Android devices. Over the past 12 years, it has become the go-to trading app for both serious traders and beginners who want to try their luck and earn a little extra money.

Let’s run through some basic tips and tricks from a beginner’s perspective to help you get the very most out of it.

Multiple charts

One of the most important features of MetaTrader 4 is the ability to view multiple charts. But did you know there are different ways of displaying them? As soon as you have more than one chart open, you will see a tab displayed at its foot, showing key chart information. Clicking in this allows you to switch between viewing that specific chart in full screen, or viewing all the charts at the same time.

If you choose the latter, there are additional options on how you can display them. Give it a try by clicking Window and selecting from the different drop-down options to get them into the layout that you find easiest to work with.

Once you have got things exactly how you want them, click on the profiles icon and choose the “save profile as” option. You can save more than one profile, and you will see that the drop down list includes a number of default options, too.

Drawing

There are all sorts of complex metrics you can apply in order to analyze trends and attempt to predict future behavior. But sometimes, there is no substitute for physically sketching lines and shapes across the charts to help you get a clear picture in your mind of what is happening and to make the analysis process more intuitive.

The graphical object drawing functionality of MetaTrader 4 is therefore an extremely popular feature, and helps bring your analysis to life. This is an area in which you really need to dive in and start scribbling away to get familiar with how it works.

Create trendlines by simply clicking the trendline icon then dragging and dropping the line. You can then double click it to make changes, for example by dragging the center of the line up or down, or by dragging either end of it to rotate.

If you hold down the Ctrl key and click on a line, it will automatically create a parallel trendline just below it.

A useful tip to remember is that if you start making a mess all over the screen, you can just press the backspace button on your keyboard to delete the last item you drew. Get in there and start experimenting!

Getting prices in the crosshairs

The crosshair function lets you zoom in on the details of a particular price at any given time. Just click the crosshairs icon, and you can float the cursor over a graph or price bar to bring up the exact price details at that point. You can also bring it up with either the third mouse key if you have one, or by Ctrl+F. It’s a handy tool for identifying highs and lows, so remember to make use of it.

Formatting

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to style, formatting and colors. There is more to this than just making things look pretty, however. Traders typically have set color schemes they use for specific variables and data sets, so the ability to get things looking just right is more important than you might think to make charts quick, easy and intuitive to review and understand.

A right click on any price chart will provide access to the properties tab, and from there, you can specify colors for the background, foreground grid, lines and bars. Get it exactly the way you want it, click on the template tab and you can save that template with the name of your choice, meaning you only have to set it up once.

You can also format the trendlines and objects that you draw from within the drawing function. Just right click on the object in question and again, you can select properties to alter color, style, weight and various other parameters.

Get the most out of MetaTrader 4

MetaTrader 4 is consistently the most popular trading app out of the wide variety that are on offer. The above tips and tricks will help you get the very best out of it.