If you are just getting started in Forex trading, there are so many new things to learn. One of the most useful is learning how to install custom indicators in the MetaTrader trading platform. MetaTrader already comes with the standard set of indicators, but this post will show you how to add your own.
This allows you to expand the functions of Metatrader and tailor it to your own needs. Before we get started with how to install indicators, let's take a look at the two different types of files that you will see.
What The Heck Is The Difference?
There are two types of files associated with Metatrader indicators, so it can be a little confusing if you have not worked with Metatrader before. You will need to know the difference, especially if you want to make modifications to your indicator later.
The first type of file is the .mq4 file. This is the important file because it is where all of the programming is stored. It is basically just a text file that contains all of the source code that a programmer writes the indicator in. If you have Metatrader installed on your computer, the icon will look like this:
You can see the source code in a text editor or in the MetaEditor program. We will get into how to use the MetaEditor after you learn how to install an indicator.
The second type of files is the .ex4 file. Unlike the .mq4 file, this file cannot be edited. Be aware of this, because if a programmer or free internet resource only gives you the .ex4 file, you will not be able to modify it. Many times, this is to protect the programmer's copyright. There is nothing wrong with this, but you just have to be aware of it.
It is the “compiled” version of the indicator that MetaTrader creates from the .mq4 file. The .mq4 file is the file that humans can read, but it needs to be converted into a file that MetaTrader can read, the .ex4 file. You will learn how it does that in the next section. An .ex4 file will usually look like this:
How To Install Them
Now let's get into how to install an indicator. You can install either the .mq4 or the .ex4 file. If you install the .mq4 file, MetaTrader will automatically create the .ex4 file. If you install the .ex4 file, MetaTrader can use it as-is. This video will show you how to do it, or if you prefer the text version, it is provided after the video.
UPDATE (11/07/2015): Metatrader changed a few things with how you need to add custom indicators. Here is the updated tutorial.
If you are using Windows, open Windows Explorer and go to My Computer > C: > Program Files. Then look for the MetaTrader folder for your broker. It will usually be called “BrokerName – Metatrader.”
Since I use Oanda, this is what my Windows Explorer looks like. Now go to experts >indicators.
Then just drag the .mq4 or .ex4 files (or both) into the indicators folder. If you only have the .mq4 file, do not worry. When you open MetaTrader the next time, it will automatically generate the .ex4 file.
If you have MetaTrader open while you are doing this, you will have to close MetaTrader and reopen it for the new indicator to be available. If you are using a Mac and need help installing Windows, this tutorial will teach you how to run MetaTrader or Forex Tester 2 on a Mac.
Now when you open MetaTrader, you will see your new indicator available in the Custom indicator menu.
Other Ways To Install MetaTrader
You can also try using Crossover for Mac to run MetaTrader. I have not used it myself, but I have heard good things about it. The only downside is that I have not heard of anyone running Forex Tester 2 successfully on Crossover.
If you are using Ubuntu Linux, you can try using Wine. This great tutorial on Forex Factory shows you exactly how to do it. Since Linux is free and more secure than Windows, it might be a great option for you. The only issue is that it is a little harder to work with than Windows. But once you get it up and running it works well. I have found that Ubuntu is especially good for older computers or computers with less processing power, such as netbooks.
How To Open MetaEditor
If you want to get your hands dirty with coding indicators (or just see what the big deal it), you can open the .mq4 file and take a look at it. To open MetaEditor, open MetaTrader and click on the MetaEditor icon.
The MetaEditor program will open and you will be able to see the indicators folder on the right hand side. When you open that folder, you will see all of the indicators what you have the .mq4 file for. Double click on the indicator you want to edit and you will see the source code. In future posts, we can go a little deeper into how to program indicators, but since this is just an introduction, we will stop here when it comes to indicator programming.
Where To Find New Indicators
The great thing about Metatrader is that is such a widely used platform that if you need a particular indicator, it is probably already available for free on a forum somewhere. In addition, there may be people on the forums who have programming skills and may be able to customize it for you, for free.
There is a downside however. You don't know for sure how well an indicator has been programmed. I'm not saying that these free indicators have purposely been sabotaged, but there are varying degrees of programming skill out there and if you are going to have any money on the line while using these indicators, you had better be damn sure that they are working the way they are supposed to. So test them out in a demo account before ever trading live.
That being said, here are some of the websites where you can find obscure and not so obscure indicators. Of course, a regular Google search is always the best place to start, but if you feel like browsing, check these out:
- Forex Factory – Since FF is one of the biggest Forex forums out there, it is not surprising that they have a wide selection of indicators and people who can help you modify them
- FX Fisherman – Another big Forex forum out there with a big repository of indicators
- MQL4 – The makers of MetaTrader keep their own repository of indicators that you can use with Metatrader 4
- MQL5 – This is the indicator library for MetaTrader 5
- MetaTrader Library – Their website looks like it is out of the 1990's, but they do have a nice selection of indicators and they give you the .mq4 source code
- 35.com – They have a nice selection of in indicators that you check out
“Indicator-itis” can be a black hole of time and energy. So although you know about these resources, you do not have to try out every single indicator. It is best to learn a trading method that works and use whatever indicator that method uses. You may find that you do not need any indicators at all, for some methods. But if you want to experiment, or discover new systems by searching for indicators, these websites are a great place to start.
How To Get Custom Indicators
The other option is to get an indicator custom programmed for you. I had some custom programming work done awhile back and it was reasonable and the programmer did a good job. However, that was an easy modification and I have not had to have an indicator programmed from scratch.
Luckily, much of what you might want custom programed is already out there for free. If it is not free, many times you can have a similar indicator modified to suit your needs. What you may need custom programmed is small things like adding an alert to use with your indicator text message alerts or signal alerts to the MetaTrader smartphone app.
Finally, even though you have all of these indicators at your disposal, it doesn't mean that you have to use them all. The more indicators you add, the more confusing your chart becomes. If you think that a chart like the one below is just a joke, I have actually seen ones that are worse.
Many beginners believe that more indicators will give them better confirmation. The reality of indicators is that you should be using as few as possible. The more you have, the more likely they are to contradict and just confuse you.
Many of the best systems that I have seen are based on two or three indicators. Sometimes, you can even get by on pure price action alone.
So I hope that this post has given you the information you need to not only install MetaTrader indicators, but where to find new ones. In a future post, I will show you how to install Expert Advisors (EAs) in MetaTrader, if you would like to automate all or part of your Forex trading.
Once you learn how to install indicators, be sure to get properly educated with both free Forex education and paid courses to find out trading methods are working for professional traders and which ones are not worth the time.
Do you have a favorite MetaTrader indicator resource? Let us know in the comments below!