thinkTank: Are You Using the Active Trader Tool?

If you trade actively, one important consideration is getting your orders in quickly. The Active Trader feature on the thinkorswim platform could help.

https://tickertapecdn.tdameritrade.com/assets/images/pages/md/cars on highway: Active Trader thinkorswim
5 min read
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Key Takeaways

  • Become familiar with the Active Trader feature on thinkorswim®
  • Know about the different features available in the Active Trader layout
  • Before risking real money, practice entering orders using paperMoney®

If you’ve been trading awhile and are used to placing orders, you may be ready to consider the Active Trader feature on thinkorswim®. With Active Trader, you can enter orders with one click and move them to different price points by dragging your mouse. You can also cancel and replace working orders the same way. Keep in mind that any open orders could get filled while you’re in the process of modifying or canceling them. So, to use these features well, you should be an experienced trader and have confidence in your decisions. Even if you don’t fit this bill, you can still try out Active Trader using paperMoney® on thinkorswim without putting real money at risk while learning or just to get a deeper understanding of how the features might help. Consider a couple different ways to access Active Trader. Select the subtab in the Trade tab, or access it from any of the control bars on the right side of a chart. 

Active Trader Layout

When you first view Active Trader, the layout includes a chart on the left and prices displayed vertically on the right (see figure 1). You can change the layout to display the number of charts you like to review, similar to what you’d do in the Charts tab. You can also use the grid presets to quickly access a layout.

The Active Trader layout on thinkorswim

FIGURE 1: ACTIVE TRADER LAYOUT. Customize your layout in different ways. Consider familiarizing yourself with this feature even if you’re not an active trader. Chart source: The thinkorswim platform. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Let’s take a closer look at the Active Trader screen. It’s like a level 2 of the market displayed vertically. You see the bid and ask size—bid side representing buyers, and ask side representing sellers. Customize the columns by selecting the settings gear icon, and then save the layout so you can use it later.  

The Control Bar

On the right side of the Active Trader panel are several buttons (see figure 2). Select these to add or delete features. It may be worth your while to try each one—news screen, Level 2 quotes, dashboard, charts, time, and sales—displaying a set of order buttons between the chart and other market boxes or above your chart. You may find one you like.

The control bar of the Active Trader layout on thinkorswim

FIGURE 2: THE CONTROL BAR. Try the different buttons. There may be a layout you like to use to get a better understanding of price movement. Chart source: The thinkorswim platformFor illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Entering Orders 

If you want to place a market order, adjust the quantity by selecting the arrow next to the Buy MKT button, then select DB (or dashboard) from the control bar so you can see the current market price. When you’re ready to place the trade, select the Buy MKT button. An order confirmation dialog box will pop up, and you can choose to send the order. But if you want faster order entry, skip the confirmation screen by checking the auto send box on the dashboard (see figure 3). If you don’t want to place a market order, place your cursor on your desired price and select it. Please understand if you enable the auto-send feature, you will not be able to view the order in the confirmation screen prior to its final submission. You’re responsible for all orders placed in your account—another reason to use paperMoney before putting real money at risk.

Placing orders with Active Trader on thinkorswim

FIGURE 3: PLACING ORDERS WITH ACTIVE TRADER. For some traders, price fills and speed are important, and using the Active Trader could shave a few seconds off the process of placing orders. Chart source: The thinkorswim platformFor illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Once the trade is filled, if you wanted to, you could scale out of your position by “bracketing” your order using the one-cancels-other (OCO) order type.

  1. Select order type from the Template menu.
  2. Adjust the OCO “offset” using the +/- to the right of the Link input for value, percentage, or tick.
  3. Select TIF (time in force). Select your exit levels using specific prices, a dollar-amount change, or percentage change.

If you want a different perspective, you may want to give Active Trader a try. Sometimes a change in your screen layout could improve your trading experience.  

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Key Takeaways

  • Become familiar with the Active Trader feature on thinkorswim®
  • Know about the different features available in the Active Trader layout
  • Before risking real money, practice entering orders using paperMoney®

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