Using Studies and Strategies

The thinkorswim platform provides you with hundreds of predefined technical indicators and a built-in study editor so you can create your own. Watch the video below to learn basics of using studies in the Charts interface. Continue reading if you need more in-depth information.

Basically speaking, there are two types of technical indicators in thinkorswim: studies and strategies (for now, we’re not taking into account the multitude of the pre-defined patterns, as there is a separate section in the manual dedicated to this kind of analysis technique). Studies are technical indicators that calculate certain values for each bar on chart. Strategies, on the other hand, will also provide you with historical trade signals: time and price points on chart where a certain price-based condition was satisfied. Strategies can also be back-tested: you can view a report that calculates the hypothetical profit/loss value that would have been actual if the signals given by the strategy were real buy and sell orders.

Operations with Studies and Strategies

1. To add a study, click Studies in the Charts header. Click Add Study or Quick Study, find the group the study belongs to and select it from the list.

2. Another way of adding studies, which will also provide you with a number of advanced options, is choosing Edit studies... in this menu. This will open the Edit Studies and Strategies dialog.

3. In this dialog, you will see three tabs: Studies, Strategies, and Sets. The latter will be empty if you don’t have any study sets yet (see details below).

4. Double click a study or strategy name in the list. It will be immediately displayed in the Added studies and strategies section. You can also select several and then click Add selected. Note: the system automatically assigns subgraphs to studies based on their calculation mechanism, however you’re free to place your studies on any subgraphs (see Arrangement and Superimposition below).

5. To delete a study or a strategy from the list, hover your mouse over its name in the Added studies and strategies list and click . To remove all studies and strategies from the list, click Remove all.

6. To edit input parameters, plots, and visibility options of a study or a strategy click the 'gear' button   at the end of the line. This will bring up the study customization dialog. Refer to the Studies Setup and Strategies Setup pages to learn more about setting in this dialog.

7. To create a new study based on thinkScript programming language, click Create... below the list of available studies. To create a strategy, do the same on the Strategies tab. This will open the thinkScript Editor where you’ll be able to script your own study or strategy. For those who are new to thinkScript or would like to refresh their knowledge, we have a set of tutorials. Note that you can also import a thinkScript based study file (*.ts) from your computer. To do so, click Import..., navigate to the file location, select the file, and click OK.

8. You can also view and edit the source code of almost all available studies. To do so, right-click the study name in the Added studies and strategies list and choose View sources... Note: we do not recommend changing the source code of pre-defined studies; instead, consider choosing Copy sources... in the dialog (this will create a new study with the same source code).

9. Finally, you can save your studies in a set. To do so, click Save as set... below the Added studies and strategies list, type the desirable name, and click Save. You set will be available on the Sets tab.

Arrangement and Superimposition

Once you have added all desired studies to chart, they are distributed automatically between subgraphs (Price, Volume, or Lower), based on the values they produce. However, you can change the subgraph on which the study should be displayed or display several studies on a single subgraph (superimposition).

To display a study on a different subgraph, click the up and down arrows at the end of the study pane. This will move the study one level up or down in the Added studies and strategies list.

Alternatively, you can drag and drop the pane onto any of the available subgraph boxes. In order to superimpose several studies, drag and drop their panes on a single subgraph. Note that in this case, system will automatically enable the percentage mode so that all studies will display their values on the percentage scale. Consider using the Left Axis feature in order to display values of a certain study on an independent scale.

After you add and arrange desirable studies and strategies on the list, click Apply. This will display your studies and strategies on chart without closing the Edit Studies and Strategies dialog; clicking OK will also close the dialog. Click Cancel to close the dialog without saving.

The Social Sentiment feature can be enabled in the Charts Settings dialog:

  1. Click the “gear” button  above the chart. The Chart Settings dialog will open.
  2. Go to the Equities tab.
  3. Activate the Show Social Sentiment checkbox and click OK. The Social Sentiment will be displayed on a lower subgraph.

Note that Social Sentiment is not available for some symbols. You can view a watchlist of all symbols for which it is available: to do so, choose Social Sentiment in the watchlist selector.

In Social Sentiment, the mentions are displayed as a stacked area which uses the same time interval and aggregation period as the chart itself (limited to daily and hourly aggregations in a standard mode). By default, there are three parts in this area: the bottom part represents the number of negative mentions of all divisions affiliated with the company, the middle part visualizes the positive mentions count, and the top part is reserved for the neutral ones. All of these values and the total number of mentions are displayed also in the status string. The area is accompanied with the Sentiment plot which visualizes the rate of approval of the company: it is calculated as the ratio of positive mentions count to the sum of positive and negative counts (neutral mentions are excluded from the calculation).

The stacked area is customizable: you can turn off and on some of its parts, change their colors, and also edit the list of divisions for which it will be plotted. To do so, right-click anywhere on the subgraph and choose Customize... or just double-click anywhere on the stacked area. In the dialog window, de-select components and/or company divisions that are of little importance to you at the moment; click OK. The stacked area will be updated according to your preferences. Note that the list of divisions can be also customized instantly from a menu that opens when you right-click anywhere on the Social Sentiment subgraph.

1. Symbol Selector and Other Header Controls

The first thing you do in Charts is specify the symbol for which the price plot will be displayed. To do so, type in the symbol name in the Symbol Selector box. You can also look through all the available symbols to pick the desirable one: click on the gray triangle and search through the categories in the dialog that pops up. In Charts, you can view and analyze price plots of any kind of symbols: stock, options, futures, and forex. Note: in addition to the Symbol Selector, the header contains other useful controls, such as Clipboard, symbol description, chart sharing, Edit Studies and Strategies, Chart Settings, Quick Time Frames, Style, Drawings, Studies, and Patterns.

2. Chart Time Frame

Once you pick up a symbol, you will see its price plot on the main subgraph. By default, the 1 year 1 day time frame is used (which means that the chart displays one year worh of data, candles aggregated on a daily basis). To change this time frame, сlick on the Time Frame button above the chart, next to the gear button, and specify the desirable aggregation period and time interval. You can also pick a time frame from your Favorites. To learn more about time frames, refer to the Chart Aggregation section. To learn how you can customize the list of your favorite time frames, refer to the Favorite Time Frames article.

3. Chart Type and Chart Mode

By default, the chart uses the Candle char type; however, you are free to change it to another chart type, e.g., Bar, Line, etc. To do so, click Style in the header, move your cursor over the Chart type menu item, and select the preferred chart type. Chart types  are characteristic of the price plot in the Standard mode, however, you may choose and advanced mode, e.g., Monkey Bars or Seasonality. More information on the chart modes and types can be found in the Chart Modes and Chart Types sections.

4. Volume and Lower Subgraphs

Below the main subgraph, you’ll find additional subgraphs. By default, the only visible additional subgraph is Volume, which displays the volume histogram and volume-based studies. When you add a study designed to be displayed on an individual subgraph (neither main, nor volume), e.g., ADX, a new subgraph will be added below the volume, such subgraphs are called Lower subgraphs. All subgraphs have the main area (where the price, volume, and study values are plotted), two axes (time axis and value axis), and a status string (a string above the main area, which displays important time, price, volume, and study values based on where your cursor is). The parameters of the axes can be customized in the corresponding tabs (Price Axis, Time Axis) of the Chart Settings menu. Note: this menu controls the representation of every minor feature in Charts, so we’ve dedicated an entire manual section to this menu.

5. Additional Controls

Below the lowest subgraph, there are additional controls:

  • Cursor type. This icon brings up the menu that will prompt you to select the desired cursor shape.
  • Right Expansion. This icon brings up a menu that will help you customize chart’s expansion area: an additional chart area that appears when required by a certain component (a study, a corporate action, or listed options to be displayed).
  • Scrollbar. Simply enough, it lets you scroll the time axis. A single click on either arrow will scroll your chart one candle (bar) to the left or to the right. 
  • Zoom In / Zoom Out. These icons help you set up the desirable scale. Note that you can also zoom in on a specified chart area simply by selecting it with the pointer (see Active Tool below) or scrolling up while holding the Ctrl button. You can also click Ctrl+ and Ctrl- to zoom in and zoom out.
  • Active Tool. By default, your active tool is the pointer (which enables you to zoom in on desirable areas by selecting them, activate and modify drawings, etc). This control, however, lets you choose another tool, e.g., a pan, which enables you to re-position your viewing area by dragging-and-dropping, or a Drawing tool.
  • Drawing Set Selector. This control will enable you to perform operations with your drawing sets.

6. Chart Grid

Like several other thinkorswim interfaces, Charts can be used in a grid, i.e., you can open multiple Charts instances in a single layout. Each instance is independent from others and displayed in an individual grid cell. To create a chart grid:

1. Click on the Grid button  above the header. The Grid menu will appear.

2. Hover your mouse across the layout editor to specify the configuration of your chart grid. It needs to be rectangular and its maximum size depends on your screen resolution.

3. Click when the desirable grid is highlighted. For example, doing so when a 3x3 grid is highlighted will display nine chart cells. You can use each chart cell the same way you would use the full-size interface, however, adding too many cells will optimize the display: the volume will be overlapped to the main subgraph, lower subgraphs will be turned off, axes will be hidden, etc. This might also affect visibility of studies and drawings.

4. If you need to maximize any of the cells, i.e., view a Charts instance in full size, click its Show actions button  and choose Maximize cell; alternatively, you can double-click the symbol description. Double-clicking the symbol description again will restore the original configuration.

5. You can save your grid for further use. To do so, click on the Grid button and choose Save grid as... in the menu. Specify the grid name and click Save. This will save all your charts in the grid with all studies, patterns, and drawing sets added to them. You can manage your saved grids in the same menu.