Trading With Hotkeys

September 26, 2023

As a new trader, the allure to hotkeys can be high. Really, anything that seems like it aids in increasing in execution speed, decision-making abilities, or chart analysis techniques is on the forefront of every new trader’s mind.

Not many people really drill down into hotkeys though. There are certain traders who should and should not use them, and certain ways to implement them effectively into your game.

First, let’s start off with some basics.

What Are Hotkeys?

Hotkeys are programmed keystrokes on your order entry system (like DAS or Sterling) that help you enter and exit trades much quicker than typing out the order manually.

For example, to enter a stock with 500 shares on the long side, you can program a keystroke where you would hit F1+B on your keyboard and it would immediately buy 500 shares of a particular stock for you at the market or even with a limit order X cents above the ask for you. That is much easier and simpler than clicking on your level 2 box, typing in the ticker, typing in 500 shares, choosing your order type, and placing the order.

Hotkeys trim down the time it takes you to go from analyzing a stock, deciding, and entering a position. Small caps can move extremely fast, and if you must manually enter a trade which can take upwards of a few seconds, you may miss out on a move or see some slippage.

Most platforms allow you to implement hotkeys for various actions such as selecting share size, dollar sizing, buy orders, sell orders, stops, and more. The combinations are infinite, and they can really be a good tool to use if you need to be quick on the keys.

Should I Use Hotkeys?

Even though it sounds like a great thing to use, not everyone should use them immediately. Just as helpful as they can be, they can also be hurtful.

One small error in the keys you hit can cause a massive problem. If you hit a buy or sell key by accident, or accidently hit the wrong key to increase your size dramatically, you can get into some ugly situations.

If you are a scalper and are fast AND consistent when hitting the keys, then hotkeys are for you. If you are a swing trader, make frequent typing errors in everyday life, or do not find yourself making many orders per day, then avoid them. There is no reason to add complexity to your order entry system if there doesn’t need to be. Adding complexity where it isn’t truly needed is just layering on something else that could trip you up when trading. If you don’t need to place order faster or don’t experience slippage on your trades now, stick to manually entering trades as it will keep you slow and consistent.

How To Safely Use Hotkeys

To safely use hotkeys, the best advice I can give is to really space out your keystrokes. Make buy and sell orders independent of each other and on an entirely different line of command.

For example, buy orders you can start with hitting F1, and sell orders you can start with hitting F2.

Spacing out crucial commands like buying and selling a stock within your platform will prevent you from making dumb mistakes like buying a stock you should have shorted. Careless errors can be avoided if you just program things properly.

How Do I Start Using Them?

Think about what types of actions take the longest for you to perform manually on your platform now. Is it entering share size and selecting an order type when placing a trade? Is it changing the share size in your order entry box?

Whatever you do manually you can program as a hotkey command. Every platform is different in regard to how to actually create hotkeys, so refer to your respective order entry system on how to actually program them.

For starters, you will want to have commands for buy orders to enter and exit a position, sell orders to enter and exit a position, changing your share size, creating a buy or sell limit order on the fly, creating a buy or sell market order on the fly, and having a ‘panic’ button that exits every open position you have if ever needed.

Join My Preferred Broker & Get 50% OFF Locates + Reduced Commissions

Optimized services, tools and support designed specifically for active traders. Get a reduced commissions rate of .0012/share with no minimum AND 50% off of locates by being a part of the TLM community and using our promo code at Guardian Trading!

Access My 100% FREE Weekly Trading Watchlist