by John Sweeney
Bells and whistles have become the distinguishing marketing factors for trading software since the
capabilities of computers have exploded in the last decade. There's been such a proliferation of
indicators, trading systems, screening capabilities and interfaces that I fear the actual day-to-day support
of a real-time trader gets lost in the shuffle. Nowadays, as much as a third of your screen can be absorbed
by menus, buttons and icons steering you toward the program's capabilities.
However, people who are actually trading don't need all that because they've already homed in on what
they want to do. They aren't researching, they're executing. They're pulling triggers, not tweaking
indicators. They need fast presentation of raw pricing, preferably graphically. They need quick setting
and resetting of alerts, indicator values now, time and sales now, news now and maybe a quick way to
track trades taken. If they're working options, an expeditious calculation of the greeks helps; position
structuring is nifty but usually takes too long and should be in your head anyway. Businesswise, holding
overhead to a manageable level is prudent and occasionally essential.
As I talk to folks who are trading off the floor, over and over Ensign 5 pops up as a fast, functional
program for trading support.
Ensign IV was reviewed in STOCKS & COMMODITIES in December 1992. The big feature I emphasized
then was the data refresh capability. A true lifesaver (and still available), data refresh comes in at night
and on the weekends to fix up all the holes in your data. The holes come from a variety of sources when
using any realtime datafeed, but they inevitably appear. Starting each morning with clean, recent data is a
time-saving Godsend that just about justified Ensign IV's purchase all by itself.