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What is There to Like and Dislike about Interactive Brokers Desktop

Not too long ago, I discovered that Interactive Brokers had a new desktop application.

For those of us who have been around long enough to remember Interactive Brokers, they have had a desktop application called Trader Workstation for the longest time (TWS, in short). TWS is currently still around today.

In a way, Interactive Brokers developed its hard-to-use reputation because TWS was meant to be used more by finance managers than retail investors. It is fine if IB wishes to serve mainly the fund managers, or the traders doing serious trading work. However, they have to be more personal if they want to attract more retail investors to use their platform.

Since then, they have done quite a good job with their online web access platform, but most of us are likely users of their mobile application platform on iOS or Android. Even then, there are who finds IB difficult to use and Interactive Brokers came up with a much more slim down mobile access called Global Trader.

Which brings us to their new desktop platform.

Those of you who would like to give it a try can download the latest version of the software here.

Like Global Trader, Interactive Brokers design and craft the whole application from the ground up to provide a more expansive desktop experience.

However, as a retail person, I struggle with how useful the desktop application is.

Some of my friends don’t even use desktops so often. They share that most of their stuff, including crafting Instagram posts or editing videos, can be done over a powerful smartphone. Outside of work, we are mobile-first, desktop second.

And that is my struggle with it because we prefer to be able to monitor or execute our trade, review our trading position on the go. So the new desktop’s competitor is not how great their rival’s platform is but their very own platform.

But how useful is the desktop? I took it for a test drive.

Review Your Portfolio

The view below is your portfolio view:

The new design is very clean and pleasant on the eyes. In this view, you can see how your positions are doing. Depending on whether you have live prices, you can see the value of your portfolio change accordingly.

Like their mobile application, the desktop allows you to change how you specify the columns. There are a bunch of fundamental data, ETFs, price data sub-columns to choose from.

My problem with the desktop is that it cannot express the values of the portfolio in a base currency like the mobile application. That to me is a deal breaker because some of my positions are in SGD and some in USD, and it is challenging for me to decipher how big each of those positions were.

Very simple but it was the second main reason why I found it challenging to use the application.

Pretty Competent Options Chains

The people who might find the desktop to be a greater benefit might ironically be the traders who needed more but find TWS challenging to use.

One group would be those who trade options.

I find the desktop application to be more responsive when reviewing options chains then the mobile application:

Click to view a larger image

I am not an options guy but as part of my continuous education, I do put out some options once in a while just to understand things. Aside from view the options chains as a list, the desktop have this interesting Lattice view:

Click to view a larger image

The lattice view shows you all the options put and call strike in bubbles according to Volume, Open Interest, Last and Implied Volatility. With this you can see the distribution of probability what the options market is telling you.

I am not an expert at this but if the distribution of SPY options (the ETF to the S&P 500) shifts from one lattice pattern to another, it may tell us whether the market participants mood is actually changing without new input.

Those folks that was on TD Ameritrade’s ThinkOrSwim can tell me if the Strategy Builder is as serviceable versus that platform.

I thought that it does provide different views to help us make trading decisions. Doing this on a wider desktop view should be one of the main use cases compare to the mobile phone.

Screening for Stocks

There are some free tools out there such as FinViz that does screening for stocks pretty well compared to dedicated tools.

The desktop app here tries to do it’s best to compete with these tools. Perhaps where the screener shines may be when you have a real time on price feed and you can filter to get the ideal subset of securities that you are looking for.

There are many metrics that you can use to filter to a ideal set of securities for you to do more research in.

In this screen I decide to

  1. Rank based on Price-Earnings from lowest to highest.
  2. Rank based on EPS Growth from highest to lowest.
  3. Limit market capitalization to bigger than 2 billion.
  4. Limit the Return-on-Equity to between 9% to 30%.

We get a list like this so that we can further analyze. I think it will be challenging to use it as a very refined factor screen but if you save the screen, the screen cap be rather useful for you.

You can also do this on different markets such as Hong Kong or Singapore.

The metric for international stocks are more limited. For example, no more PE and ROE.

But if you are a dividend investor, you can filter by:

  1. Dividend Yield %
  2. Dividend Yield TTM %
  3. EPS Growth %
  4. Payout Ratio %
  5. Revenue Growth %

This should give you a pretty good screen.

TradingView Charts – Free Multicharts and More than Two Indicators

Some of you have use TradingView Charts because it is free, provide charts in multiple markets, have a long range of data and the application is great overall.

Interactive Brokers Desktop application provides TradingView Charts as well.

Now the free TradingView account has certain limitations.

One of the main one was the limit to the number of indicators that you can put on your charts.

But as you can see on the screen I have like 4 indicators laid out. So basically I can put:

  1. Ichimoku cloud
  2. EMA Weekly
  3. Bollinger Bands
  4. RSI

I jacked up to 7 indicators before I called it a day.

Another premium feature that you can see is Multi-chart layout.

I am able to have charts of multiple timeframe laid out, which will be useful if you are more of a trader.

There are limitations though:

  1. I cannot add comparison against other tickers.
  2. The data is limited to the last ten years.


Over at the news panel,

  1. The news are taken from Benzinga, Dow Jones Global News, Reuters News and Seeking Alpha
  2. I don’t seem to get useful research reports.
  3. There seem to be useful reports from ValuEngine, Simply Wall Street, Monringstar Insider Trading Log on Market Commentary.
  4. Company Transcripts.

I think you can take a look to see how useful it is.


There are a couple of aspects of the desktop that may grow on you overtime.

I can see the desktop:

  1. Giving me a good vantage view of my portfolio.
  2. Reviewing the technical indicators on securities that Trading View does not allow me to.
  3. Reviewing and trading the options chain.
  4. Fast screens on US, Singapore and HongKong stocks.

Personal weaknesses for me are:

  1. Inability to review portfolio based on base currency.
  2. Missing the simplified currency converter.

What I am glad is that they are always paying attention to the demands of different segment of the market and trying their best to address their shortcomings and improve their offering.

If you are still not on Interactive Brokers, you should give them a try, and have a feel how its like to be able to trading multiple markets on a single platform, with no custodian charges, very low commissions and US$2 flat spot currency conversion.

For those who have accounts, have you tried the desktop? What are your thoughts?


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Friday 21st of June 2024

"My problem with the desktop is that it cannot express the values of the portfolio in a base currency like the mobile application. That to me is a deal breaker because some of my positions are in SGD and some in USD, and it is challenging for me to decipher how big each of those positions were."

Can you show a screenshot? I don't see any difference in mobile and the new desktop as to how the value of individual position are displayed...


Saturday 22nd of June 2024

In the mobile, you can put it as Display positions in SGD all your positions on mobile will be Italics and be based on SGD

But in the desktop there isnt such an option.

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