Andy Salke

Master Metatrader Programming: Custom Indicators & Expert Advisors

In recent times, Metatrader programming has brought quite some transformation in the way foreign exchange trading is carried out by traders like you and me. This game-changing set of software tools empowers traders to create their own expert advisors, custom indicators, and automated trading strategies, making trading an absolute breeze. This article aims to provide you with a comprehensive overview of Metatrader programming, highlighting its pivotal role in the world of trading.

Definition of Metatrader Programming

Metatrader programming refers to the process of using Metaquotes Language (MQL) to create custom indicators, expert advisors and other automated trading strategies. MQL is a proprietary language developed by Metaquotes Software Corporation for use with their popular trading platforms, MetaTrader 4 (MT4) and MetaTrader 5 (MT5). The language is similar to C++, making it easy for those with programming experience to adapt.

Importance of Metatrader Programming in Trading

Metatrader programming has become increasingly important in today's fast-paced financial markets due to its ability to automate many aspects of the trading process. Automated strategies can analyze market conditions, identify trends and execute trades without human intervention. This not only saves time but also minimizes errors caused by emotional or irrational decision-making.

Custom indicators created through Metatrader programming can help traders gain a deeper understanding of market conditions and potential future movements. They can assist with identifying entry and exit points or signaling when specific conditions are met - such as moving average crosses or oversold/overbought levels.


This article will cover the basics of Metatrader programming including setting up a development environment for MQL programming, understanding basic syntax and structure of MQL programs. It will then delve into creating custom indicators using MQL language, developing expert advisors (EAs) which are critical for automated trading, testing and optimizing EAs for better performance as well as advanced topics such as creating custom scripts for specific trading tasks, integrating external data sources into your MT4/MT5 platform and creating custom charting tools with MQL. Tips for successful Metatrader programming will be offered to help traders navigate this powerful tool effectively.

Basics of Metatrader Programming

Metatrader programming is a popular way to automate trades and customize indicators in the forex market. Understanding the basics of Metatrader programming will help traders develop their own custom tools and indicators. The Metaquotes Language (MQL) is a proprietary language used for developing applications for the Metatrader platform.

Understanding the Metaquotes Language (MQL)

The Metaquotes Language (MQL) is similar to C++ but has specific components designed for trading systems. MQL4 is used for developing applications for Metatrader 4, while MQL5 is designed for Metatrader 5.

While the syntax and structure of both programming languages are quite similar, they do exhibit certain distinctions when it comes to available functions and their implementation. Understanding these nuances is crucial for anyone looking to master MQL programming. Specifically, becoming proficient in the different data types employed in MQL programming is a vital aspect that cannot be overlooked.

Unlike other programming languages, MQL does not use strict data typing which allows developers some flexibility in coding. The four main data types used in MQL are integers, doubles, strings and booleans.

Setting up a development environment for MQL programming

Before starting any development work with MQL, traders need to set up their development environment with a code editor that supports syntax highlighting and debugging features specifically designed for MQL development work. There are many text editors out there that can be used to write code in Metaquotes Language but many developers prefer using Microsoft Visual Studio Code or Notepad++.

While both these text editors do not have built-in debugging features like other IDEs such as IntelliJ IDEA or Eclipse, they can be configured with debugger extensions that allow developers to debug their code within the editor. It's also important to note that traders who want to use Metatrader programming will require access to either MT4 or MT5 version of the platform since it's only way one can run custom codes on their platform.

Basic syntax and structure of MQL programs

Functions, statements, and operators are the building blocks of MQL programs. While statements are the instructions that make up the code, functions are used within programs to carry out specific tasks.

Operators are symbols used to perform mathematical or logical operations within the code. An MQL program starts with the "header" section which contains information about the program such as author, version number, date created etc. This is followed by a list of variable declarations which define any variables that will be used throughout the program.

The next section is typically where the main code body begins with various function calls and operators being utilized in order to achieve a desired outcome. It's important to understand basic syntax in order to effectively write Metatrader programs since subtle mistakes in syntax can have adverse effects on program execution.

Creating Custom Indicators in Metatrader Programming

Understanding indicators and their importance in trading

Indicators are essential tools for any trader who wants to analyze market trends and identify potential buy or sell signals. These tools provide valuable insights into market behavior, which can be used to guide trading decisions.

An indicator is a tool that traders frequently employ; the market offers a wide variety of different types of indicators. Indicators work best when used in conjunction with a trading strategy to track changes in volume, price, or any other significant variable. They thereby play a significant role in assisting traders in making wise decisions.

Moving averages are one of the most commonly used indicators among traders. They assess the typical price movement over a predetermined time frame and provide valuable insights into market trends. With this data, traders can spot patterns and forecast future price movements.

Using indicators effectively requires an understanding of their strengths and limitations. While some traders rely exclusively on technical analysis using indicators, others prefer a more holistic approach combining fundamental analysis with technical analysis.

Types of indicators available in Metatrader platform

MetaTrader 4 (MT4) and MetaTrader 5 (MT5) platforms offer numerous built-in indicators that traders can use for their analysis. These include popular indicator types such as oscillators, trend-following, volatility-based, and volume-based indicators.

Popular options in the oscillator indicator category include the relative strength index (RSI), moving average convergence and divergence (MACD), and stochastic oscillator. By comparing price data over time, these oscillators gauge momentum.

Moving Averages (MA), Parabolic SARs (PSAR), and Ichimoku Clouds are examples of trend-following indicators. These indicators assess the strength of a trend by contrasting the current price with historical averages.

Volatility-based indicators include Bollinger Bands, Average True Range (ATR), and Keltner Channels; these measure the variability of prices over time. Volume-based indicators include options such as On-Balance Volume (OBV) and Chaikin Money Flow (CMF), which measure trading volume to uncover potential bullish or bearish signals.

Steps to create custom indicators using MQL language

The MetaQuotes Language (MQL) is the programming language used by MetaTrader platforms for developing custom indicators and EAs. Creating a custom indicator requires knowledge of both the MQL language and the specific requirements of your trading strategy. The first step in creating a custom indicator is defining the calculation formula.

This involves identifying the mathematical formula that will be used to generate signals based on price data. Once this has been identified, it can be converted into MQL code.

The indicator's visual representation on your chart needs to be defined next. Colors, line thickness, and other visual elements that can improve your ability to understand signals are included in this.

You can compile your code into a format that works with MetaTrader's software once you've defined the calculation formula and visual appearance. You can then use your custom indicator in MetaTrader platforms the same way you would any other built-in indicator.

Developing Expert Advisors (EAs) in Metatrader Programming

Introduction to EAs and their role in automated trading

Expert Advisors, also known as EAs, are automated trading systems that can be programmed using the Metaquotes Language (MQL) in Metatrader 4 or 5 platforms. EAs can analyze market data, identify trading opportunities and execute trades automatically based on pre-defined rules set by traders.

The use of EAs has become increasingly popular among traders due to their ability to eliminate emotional decision-making and execute trades at high speed. EAs can be designed for a wide range of trading strategies including scalping, trend following, breakout and indicator-based systems.

Using EAs takes away the hassle of manual execution, letting traders set their trading game plan on cruise control. Traders who can't spare the time or lack the know-how to keep tabs on the markets non-stop might find this super useful.

Steps to create EAs using MQL language

Creating an EA requires a good understanding of MQL programming language and Metatrader platform functionalities. The first step is to define your trading strategy and identify key parameters such as entry/exit rules, stop loss levels, take profit levels etc. Once you have identified these parameters, you can start programming your EA using MQL. The initial step is to create a new file in Metaeditor and define your inputs like trade direction(long/short), stop-loss level etc., followed by defining control structures like if-else loops or while loops.

Then add necessary indicators or signals required for entry/exit conditions based on your strategy definition. Writing an efficient code that uses minimal resources is essential to ensure smooth functioning of the EA.

Testing and optimizing EAs for better performance

Once you have created an EA code file, it's vital to test it thoroughly before deploying it on live markets. One of the most popular methods to test an EA is using the strategy tester tool provided by Metatrader. The strategy tester allows traders to backtest their EAs using historical market data and visualize the performance of their trading strategies.

After testing, it's essential to optimize your EA for better performance. Optimization involves tweaking inputs such as take profit levels or stop loss levels to find the optimal values that will produce maximum profit.

However, traders should be cautious while optimizing as over-optimization can lead to "curve fitting" which means that your EA performance may work well on historical data but may perform poorly on live markets. Developing EAs require a good understanding of MQL programming language and Metatrader functionalities.

While creating an EA, traders should define their strategy, write efficient code, test it thoroughly and optimize it for better performance. Traders should also keep in mind that EAs are not a replacement for manual trading but rather a useful tool that can complement manual trading strategies.

Advanced Topics in Metatrader Programming

Creating Custom Scripts for Specific Trading Tasks

You as a trader are always trying to find ways to enhance your trading approach and increase the effectiveness of how you carry out your trades. To achieve this, one method is to write unique scripts that automate particular trading tasks. These scripts can be made to do anything on the Metatrader platform, from opening and closing trades to running intricate analyses on market data. One example of a custom script that could be created using MQL is a position sizing calculator. This script would take into account the trader's account balance, risk tolerance, and stop loss level to determine the appropriate lot size for each trade.

Another example could be a script that performs a specific technical analysis on market data and then generates a signal when certain conditions are met. Overall, creating custom scripts allows traders to streamline their trading process and save time while still maintaining control over their trades.

Integrating External Data Sources into Your MT4/MT5 Platform

While the Metatrader platform provides access to a wealth of market data, there may be times when traders need access to additional information from external sources. This can include news feeds, economic calendars, or even real-time weather updates that could impact certain markets.

Fortunately, MQL programming can be used to incorporate external data sources into your MT4/MT5 platform. Finding the API or feed that provides the desired information is the first step in this process.

Creating Custom Charting Tools with MQL

Charting tools are an essential part of any trader's toolkit, providing invaluable insights into market trends and patterns. While the Metatrader platform offers a variety of pre-built charting tools, there may be times when traders need to create their own custom charts to suit specific trading strategies. Traders can develop distinctive charting tools that offer deeper insights into market data by utilizing MQL programming techniques such as custom indicators and drawing tools.

A custom indicator might be created, for instance, to draw attention to particular support and resistance levels on a chart or to show trend lines based on particular technical analysis indicators. The ability to create unique insights that are not accessible through the default Metatrader platform gives traders a competitive edge when developing custom charting tools with MQL.

Tips for Successful Metatrader Programming

Best practices for efficient coding

In order to write clean and efficient code, it's important to follow some best practices when programming in MQL. One of the first things to consider is the use of comments. Comments are essential when working with multiple developers or revisiting your own code months or years later.

Additionally, using clear and consistent variable names can make your code more readable and prevent errors caused by confusion. Another valuable practice is using functions whenever possible.

This makes your code more modular and easier to maintain over time. It also makes your scripts more reusable by separating specific tasks into individual functions that can be called upon as needed.

Testing your code frequently as you write it is always a good idea. This can assist in identifying errors early on before they develop into more serious problems later.

Managing risk in trading

While Metatrader programming can assist in automating some aspects of trading, it's crucial to understand that there are always risks associated with any activity on the financial markets. Therefore, when creating trading systems, risk management ought to come first. One way to minimize risk is through diversification - spreading out investments across different markets or strategies rather than putting all of one's eggs in a single basket. Additionally, setting stop-loss orders at appropriate levels can help limit potential losses.

Think about incorporating machine learning algorithms into your trading system as an additional strategy. These algorithms examine historical data and statistical models to look for patterns that might be precursors to future market trends or adjustments in volatility levels.

Continuing education and staying up-to-date

As with any technical skill, staying current with the latest developments is essential for success in Metatrader programming. There are many resources available online for self-directed learning, including tutorials, forums, and blogs dedicated specifically to MQL programming.

Attending conferences or workshops devoted to trading and coding are another option for continuing education. These gatherings provide chances to network with other industry experts and gain insightful knowledge about current business trends.

Maintaining a curious and open-minded approach to learning is key. As new technologies emerge and market conditions evolve, being adaptable and willing to learn will help ensure long-term success in Metatrader programming.


For traders looking to automate some aspects of their trading strategies, Metatrader programming can be a potent tool. Following best practices for effective coding, managing risk appropriately, and keeping up with recent advancements in the industry are necessary for success.

By incorporating these tips into your Metatrader programming practice, you can create more effective trading systems that are better equipped to navigate today's complex financial markets. So, keep learning, keep testing, and don't be afraid to take some risks - with commitment and dedication, you can achieve your goals.