How to Set Up thinkorswim® for Stock Trading
Narrator: Hello, traders. I'm Jeremy Kuhlman. In this video, I'm going to show you how you can start customizing the thinkorswim® desktop platform as a stock trader.
Now, by no means is this an exhaustive list on how you can customize thinkorswim, but it should get you started in key features of the software. Keep in mind, we're looking at the desktop version of thinkorswim. Features on thinkorswim web and mobile may be different. For example, we're going to look at ways to customize your left-hand sidebar with different watchlists.
We're going to go over to the Charts tab and we're going to show you how to create styles and studies and then save that so you can apply it to future charts that you create. And, finally, we're going to look at ways to create custom order templates, specifically, how to create a customized OCO bracket. So, let's jump in and get started.
On-screen Animation: thinkorswim® main screen appears with left sidebar containing news section and a watchlist.
Narrator: OK, to get started, the first thing I'm going to do is setup some watchlists in our left-hand sidebar. I'm going to get rid of some of the gadgets that are loaded here by default. To do that, I'm going to click the gear wheel at the bottom of our screen. And let's get rid of Live News and Quick Chart. And the first thing I'm going to do to create my own watchlist is select the menu here at the top and then go select Create Watchlist. The first thing we'll do is give it a name. We're going to call this Markets Overview. And let's add all the four major indices. We'll start with the Dow Jones Industrial Average®, the S&P 500®, the Nasdaq®, and the Russell 2000®. When we're ready, we're going to click on Save.
Now, you can see our custom watchlist has been loaded here at the top. Now, if we want to add symbols to this watchlist, we don't have to go through that process. We can simply put our mouse in the symbol column of the last row of this watchlist. And by doing that, we can add more symbols. So, maybe you want to keep track of volatility, what the VIX is doing, so we can type in VIX, press enter. Maybe we want to look at some stocks that we're interested in trading. So, for this example let's just add a few tech stocks stocks, stocks like Meta, Apple, Amazon, put in Netflix, and Alphabet.
Animation: META, AAPL, AMZN, NFLX, and GOOG added to watchlist in left sidebar.
Narrator: Now, the second watchlist I want to add is our sector-specific watchlist that tracks the different sectors of the S&P 500. To access that we're going to add a watchlist to our sidebar by clicking the plus sign and selecting watchlists. And now we have a second watchlist loaded within our left-hand sidebar. Now, to access the prebuilt watchlist, we'll go back to this menu, and then in the middle section where we have different prebuilt watchlists, they're sorted alphabetically, we're going to go to Public S through W. We're going to select S&P 500 Sector Indices.
Now, you see when we load this, kind of some cryptic symbols in here. We don't really know what these sectors mean. What we have to do is some customization to make this useful. So, the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to click on the gear wheel and hit Customize. Now, because the sector indices in the S&P 500 aren't traded products, the first thing we're going to do is we're going to get rid of the Last price, Net Change, the Bid, and the Ask, and then we're going to go add Percent Change. Now, as you can see, the symbol isn't really helpful for us. So, we're going to need a better description to know what sectors we're looking at and to do that we'll remove Symbol and we're going to go ahead and add Description. And let's move to the top and hit OK. And now you can see we have a watchlist specifically built for the 11 different sectors of the S&P.
So, we can sort that by clicking on the column header, and now you can see at a very quick glance, we can see which sectors are outperforming for today versus which ones are underperforming. Now, the last watchlist I want to add to the sidebar is a custom-built dynamic scan.
Animation: Arrow clicks on the Scan tab.
Narrator: And this is something you can do using the Scan tab. So, to start, I'm going to get rid of these two filters here at the top. And we're simply going to create a dynamic scan looking at percent change. And we want to look at stocks that just, let's say, for example, are up 3% or more in the current trading day.
Now, as you can see, we scan through the entire market; that's going to be just around 1,300 stocks. So, not very useful. So, we're going to use this filter even more by looking at stocks within the S&P 500. And as you can see, as we do that, we are now down to 21 matches. So, that could be a very useful watchlist, if we're looking to trade stocks that are moving for the day. Now, the other thing I'm going to do before I hit Scan is I'm going to sort our list, instead of by symbol, we're going to go to Basic Price & Quote and we're going to sort it by Percent Change in descending order, which means the top of our list will have the largest gainers for the day and the bottom of our list will be the smallest gainers, all with at least a 3% gain or more. So, when I hit Scan, you can see we now have that list of different stocks that meet this criteria of up 3% or more for the day, and it's sorted by this particular column already. Now, this is a static watchlist. When we hit Scan at that moment, these will be the stocks that are moving 3% or more as soon as you hit Scan.
But throughout the trading day, this list could change. So, that's why we're going to save this as a dynamic scan that we can then load as a watchlist. And to do that, we're going go back up here to the top, click on action menu, and hit Save scan query. And let's just name this 3% Movers. Hit Save. And now we're going to go back to over here to watchlists, add a watchlist, and this time we are going to load—and let's just close this up, so we can see this—I'm going to go load under Personal, there's our 3% Movers. And it has this little purple icon next to it. And that means it's a dynamic scan that will be happening in the background throughout the trading day. So, as we load this watchlist, these symbols will update throughout the day based on the scan query.
So, now that we've created our three watchlists, it's time to start linking some of these gadgets to different tabs on the platform. And this will allow us to navigate symbols quickly and efficiently throughout the trading day.
So, the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to link our Trade tab to our 3% Movers watchlist.
Animation: Arrow hovers and clicks on the Trade tab.
Narrator: And you can see this by default: The trading tab already has a linking of red number one. And so we're going to go over here to link our 3% Movers watchlist to that same red number one. And by doing that, as we click through this watchlist, you can see the Trade tab automatically updates based on what we've selected in our watchlist. And I'm just using my arrow keys on my keyboard to go up and down or you can click.
The next thing I want to do is open up the Trade Grid. And this will allow us to link even more gadgets. So, as we're sorting through this, we can get some more information on these stocks. So, the first thing I'm going to do is, once again, link the gadget you see here in the Trade Grid to red number one. And by default, you're going to have three gadgets listed.
Let's lose the two here on the right. And I'm just going to go change this one gadget. By default, it will be set to Level II quotes. Let's change this gadget by clicking on the action menu. I'm going to hover over Gadget, and let's add Live News. Now we have a news gadget built into our Trade tab.
So, as we're sorting through these stocks, we can quickly view the news stories for the day. And to view that news story you can just click on that and then read the news story or sort through the other news stories here. But now we have the live news gadget built right into our Trade tab. The next thing I'm going to do is I'm going to go hover over the Charts tab.
Animation: Arrow hovers and clicks on the Charts tab.
Narrator: And you see it's already linked to red number one. So, once again, we can sort through this watchlist, and our charts will update.
Let's do some customization of our charts. So, let's go ahead and close the left sidebar. And let's customize three things. We're going to change a little bit of the style of the chart, we're going to add some studies, and then we're going to add a second chart with a different time frame. So, to start let's go into the Style section, and we're going to go ahead and click Settings. Now, to change the appearance of the chart, we're going to go to Appearance.
Animation: Arrow clicks on Styles, Settings, and then Appearance, which opens the Chart Settings box.
Narrator: To do that, we're going to go to Background, change it from black, maybe we want a brighter chart. I'm going to go hit White here, and then click OK. I'm going to change the Border up, and the Border down colors. Let's change that to a deeper red. And then also change the Fill down to a deeper red. Hit OK. And maybe we want to fill in our up candles, so let's check mark this for fill up. And finally, instead of having a blue-colored volume bar maybe we want the volume to match whatever color our candles are. To do that, we can click this section here, Color as symbol ticks under Volume bars. And now we have all that matching. I'm going to hit Apply and OK. And now you can see we've changed the color of our chart.
Now, what do we do if we want to add a study? Well, to do that, we can go to the beaker. And let's just hit some simple moving averages. So to do that, I'm going to type in simple in my search bar. And you can see Simple Moving Average shows up. Let's just go ahead and click that and then Add selected.
Now, by default the simple moving average, this number right here, is going to be the default period. So, based on our one-day chart, we would have a nine-day moving period. But lots of stock traders look at three specific moving averages: the 20, the 50, and the 200. So, let's show you how to customize that. We can do that in the gear wheel here. And we simply click in this length section, and let's add the 20-day moving average. And the other thing you can do is change the color and the weighting of the lines. So, you can change the Width to a three, and hit OK, and Apply.
And now you can see we've added the 20-day moving average. Now to add the other moving averages, it would be the same process, go ahead and click the beaker, and let's add simple again. Now we're going to add this twice, and then you would go in and customize these two: 50 and 200. And you can change the colors and styles accordingly.
Now, what if we want to add some studies below the volume sub-graph?
Animation: Arrow hovers and clicks on the Charts tab.
Narrator: Well, maybe you want to look at a stochastic or some type of a moving average crossover. Let's add those lower chart studies. And we, once again, go back into the beaker and we're going to look up two popular studies that a lot of stock traders are using: MACD and the RSI. And we're going to just go click and add those. And we're going to leave those to their default settings. And then we hit Apply and OK.
You can see those are now layered on top of each other. If you want to do this for every single chart that you add to the platform, and what I mean by that is, if we click this and we wanted to add a second chart, we would probably have to go through and do this all over again. However, we can save some steps and we can do that by saving a style. So, I'm going to go back into our chart here, and we're going to hit the style button. And this time we're going to go Save style. And let's just call what we built here our one-year, one-day MACD RSI. And then, we make sure to check-mark Include patterns and study set, then hit Save. And now if I just go on to style on this chart, I can load the style right next to it. So, immediately everything I did over here, I can add with one click.
Now, as a stock trader, you may want different time frames. Obviously, we don't want to look at the same chart. So, let's change this to a closer time frame. And to do that, we're going to click this button up here for time frame setup. And you'll have some default time frames built for you: one day, one minute, five day, five minutes. Or you can go into Time frame and build your own custom time frame. So, we're going to go click on Intraday, and let's look at two-day, five-minute chart here, and then click OK.
And if you want to lose any of the studies you built here—maybe we want to get rid of the moving averages because these daily moving averages now are five-minute moving averages based on the period—it may not be useful anymore, so click on the beaker, let's get rid of these by clicking the X, then hit Apply. We'll leave our volume and our MACD and RSI, and we can clean this up by choosing how much room we want to see these subgraphs. And then once you're ready, you can save this as a second style. Now this time we'll call it two-day, five-minute RSI MACD. I Include patterns and study set and click Save. Now I'm going to go back to my watchlist, because these are all linked to that red number one, and there you go, you can see we're now seeing two charts very quickly as we sort through this dynamic scanned watchlist that we created earlier in the video.
Now that we've created and customized our charts, let's get some information on these stocks. So, to do that, we're going go up here to the Analyze tab, then hit the Fundamental subtab.
Animation: Arrow hovers and clicks on the Analyze tab, the Fundamental subtab.
Narrator: And once again, we're going to link this to red number one. And this page is great because you can get some information about the company. We can scroll down and we can see their financial data. If we go down even further, there's some tools about valuation and just some general company details. So, a great resource to get familiar with a company that maybe you haven't traded before.
And then at the top of this page, there are built-in research reports from analysts. So, we have the Research Team, CFRA, The Street, and Market Edge. And you can see what the ratings are on that stock. You can even download those reports. But also, you can create an alert if there's any ratings changes on a specific stock. And you can do that by clicking on the bell. And now, we can do a specific alert for one stock. In this case, we could get an alert if this analyst changes rating for one symbol, or we can cast a wider net. And to do that, we can do All providers, so if any research analyst changes their ratings, we can do this as a Symbol or watchlist. And if you do a symbol, it would be loaded here, or we can select the watchlist by clicking the gear wheel. And let's just say any time a stock in the S&P 500 gets upgraded or downgraded, let's be notified. And I'm going to go ahead and click Create. Now, if we go to our MarketWatch tab and select Alerts, there you can see we have an active alert, if any company rating changes for the symbols from the S&P 500 by all ratings provided.
Alright, now that we've got some things built in throughout the platform, let's go over here to the Trade tab and let's work on building some custom ordered templates.
Animation: Arrow hovers and clicks on the Trade tab.
Narrator: By default, when you try to go and buy or sell a stock in thinkorswim—let's go ahead and click on Tesla here—when you click on the asking price, by default you're going to see an order quantity of 100 shares. Now, we can change this a couple of different ways. We can change the order quantity here in the order ticket manually, we can go up or down, or we can change the actual default quantity when you click on that asking price. And to do that, we can go to the Setup button, Application Settings, Order defaults, and under Stocks we can change that from 100 to whatever number you want, maybe it's one, maybe it's 10.
And then I'm going to Apply settings. So, now when I click on that asking price, there you see, we have an order default of 10 shares. Another cool feature you could do if you want more options for your order default is we can add some gadgets back into this Trade Grid. So, to do that, let's add two more grids. And we're going to link these as we've done earlier. And we're going to go change these gadgets to the dashboard. And that dashboard is essentially a very quick access way to buy and sell stock through the platform.
You can see there's a buy and sell button and quantities. And these are set to our order default that we just set up in the application settings, but we can change these by right clicking this link. And let's change this one to one. And we'll change this one over here to 50. Now, if we click on the Buy button in this gadget, you can see one share pops up. And if we click the Buy button in this gadget, we would get 50. And you can do this however many times you want. You can literally add more gadgets all the way up to this entire grid based on the order quantities you want to see.
The other thing you can do is we can give the news some more room by shifting these over and really start to customize our layout in the Trade Grid, so that we're maximizing the real estate within the body of the Trade Grid and the software in general. Now, what if we want to actually add some custom order templates? Maybe you have a specific way you like to trade a stock, and what I mean by this is maybe you buy a stock and you want to take profit if it goes up, let's just say, $5, and you want to be stopped out, say, if it goes down $2. Well, to do that, we're going to right click on the asking price, hover our mouse over Buy custom, and we're going to use a special order type called OCO Bracket, which stands for one cancels the other, and I'll explain that in a second. Now, when we do that, you'll see we have an order quantity of 10.
We have three orders, an initial buy order to open the position, and then two sell orders: a limit, which would take profit if the stock goes up, and a stop order, which would stop us out of our position if the stock went down.
Now the OCO, which stands for one cancels other, means, if either of these orders is filled, the other would automatically cancel. And so that allows you to work two orders at once without the concern that if one fills, you'll have this other order just kind of hanging out there. So, how do we create an order template that I spoke of where we want to make a $5 limit or get stopped out at a $2 loss? Well, the first thing I'm going to do, just for the purposes of this video, is to change the opening buy order to a market order, so that we can get filled. Now, our first sell order is our limit order to take profit. And by default, you'll see a price, but we're creating an order template.
So, to change this, I'm going to click on Manual and select Trigger. And now you can see there's a dollar value here. I'm going to do the same thing for the stop order. And you can see we can change this to $5 up, and we're going to go ahead and change this to $2 down. And now we've created this template where whatever stock we want to buy will go in as a market order, the profit order to take profit will be a sell limit order $5 above our fill price, and then we'll be stopped out $2 below or somewhere around there if the stock goes down. Now remember, stop orders don't guarantee a fill at an exact price.
And then the only thing we're going to do is we're going to change these sell orders to good 'til canceled, because maybe the stock that we buy doesn't go up $5 or down $2 that first day, so we want those orders to work for more than the current trading day. Now, instead of confirming and sending this out, we're actually going to click this button down here next to the Delete button, which is Save Custom Order Template. And we're going to give this a name. We're going to call this five up, two down OCO. Whatever you want to name that, that's totally up to you. Once you're ready, you're going to go ahead and click on Save. And I'm just going to delete the order. Now, we're going to right click on our asking price, hover over Buy custom, and instead of selecting with OCO Bracket, there you can see we have a custom order template that we just created. And when I click that, everything we just did automatically is built into the software. So, the only thing we have to do is Confirm, Review and we're ready to click Send.
And those are just a few of the many ways that you can start customizing the thinkorswim platform as a stock trader. Now, remember, this isn't an exhaustive list. We could spend hours showing you ways to customize the platform. And keep in mind, everything we discussed today is simply for educational purposes only. Nothing is a recommendation of a specific security, strategy, or way to trade stock. Simply some ways to show you how to set up thinkorswim and customize it as a stock trader.
And for free investor education, check out Insights & Education on schwab.com. See the links in the description. And finally, subscribe to our YouTube channel and get notified when we release new content and videos. So, thanks for watching the video and happy trading.
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