Getting Started with Amibroker – Features, Pros-Cons & Learning Resources

When it comes to technical analysis and algorithmic trading system development, probably Amibroker is the foremost tool that comes into the mind of the majority. Amibroker has positioned itself at pinnacle among its competitors due to its robust set of features and the ease of learning. Even non-programmers and non-tech savvy individuals get comfortable on Amibroker within no time. In this post, we’ll try to understand Amibroker software from scratch, get familiar with its features, pros-cons, and everything else that must know to get started with this wonderful tool.

Getting Started with Amibroker

What is Amibroker?

In layman terms, “Amibroker is an advanced technical analysis software which you can use for chart reading, trading system development, and backtesting”

Let’s take a step back and understand why do you need a software to perform technical analysis?

Well, you need a technical analysis software for the same reasons why you need any other software for – i.e. to automate time consuming tasks.

Imagine if this software doesn’t exist and you’ll have to draw charts on paper, spot patterns, apply indicators, and backtest manually on years of data. Just analyzing one symbol for a simple strategy may take months if not years.

Amibroker is meant to simplify these tasks and also automate them up to an extent. Using this software, within a click of a button, you can load candlestick charts, super-impose indicators, and trend lines, backtest your system and even simulate real trading.

It is a desktop application that you can download and install in your windows-based PC. It is a very lightweight tool and doesn’t consume a lot of memory or space.

Further in this article, we’ll learn how to install and use it.

History of Amibroker

Amibroker is the oldest among the technical analysis softwares that exist today. The first version of Amibroker was launched in the year 1995 on the Amiga platform.

Dr. Tomasz Janeczko, the founder of Amibroker invented it for his personal use and later it became available for the public. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Telecommunication from the Wroclaw University of Technology. With 30+ years of programming experience, he is the brain behind this masterpiece.

Since it’s inception in 1995, Amibroker has gone through several major and minor upgrades. The complete chronology of the innovation history can be found at the about us page of Amibroker.

Salient Features

Amibroker is packed with several rich features which are like a goldmine for technical analysts and algorithmic traders.

A single blog post may not do justice describing all these features, but we have highlighted some prominent ones below:

Advanced Charting

Amibroker Charts

Reference – www.amibroker.com

  • Analyze different chart types like bar, candlestick, renko, heikin-ashi, etc.
  • Draw trendlines, fibonacci retracements, gann square, text, etc over the chart for detailed analysis.
  • Drag and drop technical indicators over the chart. All popular indicators are included out of the box.
  • Perform multi-timeframe analysis with a click of the button.
  • Automatic interpretation of the chart based on chart patterns and technical indicators.
  • Ability to change chart parameters in real-time.
  • Bar Replay tool to playback charts using historical data, can be used for paper-trading.

Backtesting

Backtest Log

Backtest Report1

  • Backtest your favorite strategy on historical data with a click of the button.
  • Get a detailed backtesting report with several advanced metrics to gauge the performance of your system.
  • Superfast backtesting. Up to 100X faster than other technical analysis tools.
  • You can do portfolio-level backtesting and control the position size for each stock within the portfolio.
  • Apply money management techniques, position-sizing, stops, and targets.
  • Visualize the equity curve and drawdowns in interactive charts.
  • Add custom metrics to the backtest report to suit your needs.
  • Support for backtesting mutual funds.

Optimization

Amibroker Optimization Report

Reference – www.amibroker.com

  • Find the most optimal parameter for your trading system. Confused whether you should use 20 periods moving average or 50 periods moving average? Using the inbuilt optimization feature in Amibroker you can test all the different periods and find the most optimal one.
  • Turbo optimization with a detailed report. You can test 1000’s of different combinations within minutes.
  • You have an option to perform exhaustive optimization OR Artificial Intelligence evolutionary optimization algorithms like PSO (Particle Swarm Optimization) and CMA-ES (Covariance Matrix Adaptation Evolutionary Strategy.
  • View results of optimization in a 3D interactive chart for robust analysis.
  • Avoid optimization bias by performing walk forward testing i.e. find optimum parameters using in-sample data and test it again on out-of-sample data. This is available out of the box with Amibroker, which otherwise is a very time consuming process.
  • You can also do monte carlo simulation to predict the robustness of your system in different market conditions.

Data Processing

  • Highly efficient data processing engine which can operate on gigabytes of data within the blink of an eye.
  • Import historical data through CSV or ASCII files. You can define your own delimiters and list of columns, no pre-processing of data required.
  • Can connect to external plugins (like eSignal, IQFeed, Interactive Brokers, etc) for the real-time tick data feed.
  • You can create multiple databases for different exchanges or instruments. No limit on the number of symbols.
  • Categorize symbols into groups, markets, sectors, industries, etc. Also, you can create watchlists for quick access.

Scanning and Exploration

  • You can scan and set up alerts for the symbols that meet any particular criteria. For example – scan for stocks that cross 200 periods moving average.
  • Scanning can be done on the realtime data feed which can help you expedite your trading decisions.
  • Customize the interval of scanning and also select the watchlist to be scanned.
  • Perform customized scanning and reporting using the inbuilt exploration feature.

Advanced Features

  • Amibroker data plugin available for C++ developers to build custom indicators, data plugins, etc.
  • You can use the OLE automation object model to control Amibroker from an external process. For example – you can create a script to automatically trigger backtesting every 24 hours.
  • Ability to call external COM (ActiveX) objects from the AFL formula.
  • Built-in portfolio manager to track your investments.
  • Programmable sound alerts, popup windows, and email notifications
  • Send alerts from Amibroker to Telegram
  • Auto trading interface with popular brokers to place your orders automatically in the event of buy-sell signals

See the summary of these features in the below infographic:

AMIBROKER FEATURES

Download and Install Amibroker in your System

It is very easy and straight forward to download and install Amibroker on your PC.

You just need to open Amibroker free download page from your browser and download the latest available version.

Amibroker Free Download

For every version, you’ll see two options 32 bit and 64 bit. Download the one that is relevant according to your PC configuration. Follow this link to know whether you have a 32 bit or 64 bit CPU.

Once the installation file is downloaded, simply double click on it and follow the simple instructions to finish the installation.

In case you find troubles while installing the software, shoot an email with the screenshot to support@tradingtuitions.com and we’ll try to help you at the earliest.

Hardware requirements for Amibroker Installation

Amibroker is a very lightweight software and does not require any sophisticated hardware. The minimum system requirement is mentioned below:

  • CPU – Intel or AMD x86 compatible CPU
  • OS – Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP, 2K
  • RAM – 512 MB RAM
  • Disc Space – 100 MB

However, if you want to efficiently utilize the software for building and backtesting trading systems, we would recommend a 64-bit machine with atleast 8 GB RAM.

More memory will result in more efficient multithreading which would improve the overall performance of the software.

Amibroker does not have a Mac version currently. In order to operate it in Macbooks, you can use Parallels (virtualization software).

Amibroker Formula Language (AFL)

In order to build a customized trading system or scanner in Amibroker, you’ll have to code it using Amibroker formula language (AFL).

Ability to code using AFL is not a MUST KNOW skill to use Amibroker, as most of the common indicators are already available out of the box. However, it is worthy to learn this language as you can do wonders with AFL programming.

In simple terms, AFL is a high-level programming language using which you can formulate your trading rules into executable code. This code can then be used as a system which you can backtest and use for live trading, also it can be used to scan the stocks in realtime.

AFL is an array-based programming language which means the entire data processing happens on arrays instead of individual variables. This makes the code very concise and readable. There are very rare situations where you have to write loops.

There are pre-defined functions available for each common task which you can use in your code, this makes things relatively easier than other programming languages like Python.

For example: To generate a Buy signal in the event of moving average crossover you just have to write:

MA Crossover AFL 1

And to apply a stop loss of 2% below is the simple syntax:

MA Crossover AFL 2

You can literally build a full blown algorithmic trading system in less than 100 lines of code. Check out the below moving average crossover system written in AFL:

MA Crossover AFL 3

The learning curve for AFL is comparatively lesser than other programming languages and you can give it a try even if you are not from a programming background. The inbuilt IDE (integrated development environment) makes this task even easier with features such as syntax highlighting, auto-complete, debugging, etc.

Should you buy the Amibroker License?

Unlike many other technical analysis softwares, Amibroker offers a free trial which you can use for evaluation purpose. If you are a beginner, you can stick with the trial version to learn the tool.

However, for professional traders, we would highly recommend purchasing the premium version which is available at a very nominal price considering the value this software brings. At the time of writing this article, the premium version starts from $279 which includes 24 months of free upgrades and maintenance. This is a perpetual license which means that you can also use it beyond 24 months but the upgrades would be stopped. Click here to review the pricing.

Please note that we are not affiliated with Amibroker by any means. So you should make the buying decision at your sole discretion.

With the premium version of Amibroker, you also get some additional benefits outlined below:

  1. 24/7 technical support
  2. Access to members zone
  3. Access to online AFL library containing thousands of code snippets

Once you complete your purchase, you’ll receive the license keys via Email using which you can fully activate your trial version.

You also have an option to buy two add-on programs along with Amibroker license:

  1. AmiQuote – Historical data downloader that integrates with Amibroker. It downloads data from sources such as Yahoo Finance, Quandl, Tiingo, Stooq, etc.
  2. AFL Code Wizard – A utility to convert English sentences into AFL code. If you don’t know how to program, this may be a life savior.

There are excellent utilities, but we do not recommend shelling out extra money to buy them. You should evaluate the trial version of these tools yourself and make an informed decision.

Learning Resources

When it comes to learning Amibroker from scratch, there are very few options available. As a beginner, you should start with the official documentation.

Make sure you download the trial version first and practice what you read in the documentation.

Below are some of the other useful resources you can refer to learn Amibroker:

Books:

Websites:

Online Forums:

If you are looking for a structured learning experience with step-by-step instructions on how to build a professional trading system using Amibroker, have a look at this course

Amibroker Pros and Cons

Any software review would be incomplete without listing down the pros and cons. So here are some of the pros and cons of Amibroker software gathered from personal experience, various forums and veteran users of the software:

Pros:

  • Highly efficient and multi-threaded backtesting engine which is faster than any other software out there. This is also one of the unique selling points of Amibroker.
  • Very intuitive optimization engine with features such as walk-forward testing, AI-based optimization, etc.
  • Amibroker is customizable according to your needs through the OLE automation object model and VC++ libraries.
  • Amibroker formula language(AFL) is quite robust and easy to learn.
  • Several real-time data feed plugins available which can integrate seamlessly with Amibroker
  • Excellent support. The founder of Amibroker (Dr. Tomasz Janeczko)is very accessible over Emails.
  • It is surprisingly inexpensive considering the features offered. And the license is perpetual, which means you don’t have to pay every month or year to use the product.

Cons:

  • The user interface could be better. It looks cluttered for a new user.
  • Limited auto trading options through Amibroker. Several 3rd party plugins are available for auto trading, but not all are officially endorsed by Amibroker.
  • There is no mobile app and support for MacBook.

Final Thoughts

Amibroker is certainly one of the best technical analysis software that exists today. No one can beat it in terms of efficiency and performance.

For a beginner who wants to pursue algorithmic trading, Amibroker can be the best starting point. Even for professional traders, this software can deliver everything required for trading system development and execution.

Check this article if you want to see how Amibroker compares with other algorithmic trading platforms.

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