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What Are Hot Keys? The Ultimate Guide for Day Traders

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Written by Timothy Sykes
Updated 9/16/2023 12 min read

Hot keys in trading are keyboard shortcuts that allow day traders to execute trades or perform actions quickly.

Hot keys help traders to maximize their efficiency and responsiveness. They save valuable time by allowing immediate order entries, adjustments, or cancellations.

In the world of trading, every single moment, every single mouse-click counts. Especially in day trading, where lot sizes change in a blink, and Forex rates fluctuate faster than that… In stocks, futures, commodities, and currency trading, hot keys can help.

Hot keys can be used for everything — from adjusting your position to checking the ask price, to even flipping between different windows on your trading platform. Many of my Trading Challenge students have used them for years.

The beauty of hot keys is in the customization. No two traders are the same, so why should their hot keys be? Read on to see some of the ways they can help YOU!

Benefits of Using Hot Keys in Trading

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Hot keys streamline the trading process by reducing the number of clicks needed to place orders. This can help trading strategies that require quick reactions to market movements — like any day trading strategy.

With hot keys, traders can bypass menus and dialogs to quickly take action, minimize risk, and potentially increase profit opportunities.

While hot keys streamline the trading process, the platform you use is the biggest part of your trading experience. A robust platform like the one discussed in this article on Trading Platforms for Day Traders can make a world of difference. It’s not just about speed, but also about the tools and resources at your disposal. Make sure to choose a platform that complements your trading style and strategy.

Types of Hot Keys Available

Hot keys come in many forms, from single keystrokes to complex combinations involving Shift, Ctrl, or Alt keys. Common types include keys for order entry, charting and technical indicators, and workspace navigation.

Hot keys come in various forms and can be customized to suit your trading needs. However, to fully utilize them, you need to understand the market and its dynamics. This involves knowing how to use tools like stock scanners effectively. Check out this guide on How to Use Stock Scanners to enhance your market analysis and make informed trading decisions.

Hot keys can be customized to suit a trader’s specific strategies and preferences. In my 20-plus years trading, I’ve seen every type of hot key imaginable…

The ‘key’ is figuring out what you want to do — then using hot keys to do it at lightning speed!

Popular Uses for Hot Keys in Trading

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Hot keys are most commonly used for rapid order entry, but they have many other uses.

In my experience as a trader and a teacher, day traders also rely on hot keys to quickly toggle between chart types, switch to a specific window, or alter the size of a position.

How to Set Up Hot Keys on Your Platform or Device

Most trading platforms allow traders to set up hot keys in the settings or preferences menu.

Traders simply select the desired action, such as placing a ‘buy limit order,’ and assign it to a key or key combination.

Why a buy limit order? Watch this video:

If you want my opinion on the best trading platform out there — it’s StocksToTrade.

StocksToTrade is a powerful trading platform that integrates with most major brokers. With your subscription, you get access to software designed by traders like me. I actually helped to design it, so it has all of the features that traders like me look for in a platform.

You know what that means? No more navigating clunky legacy software and clicking between multiple windows to check on breaking news. StocksToTrade has it all right there!

There’s so much more you can use this platform for, like:

  • Clean and customizable charts
  • Several trader-designed stock scans
  • A powerful news scanner with breaking news, Twitter mentions, and earnings reports
  • Your choice of add-on, curated alerts

Grab your 14-day trial today — it’s only $7!

Mac and PC Hot Keys

Mac and PC hot keys have small but crucial differences. These differences are most pronounced in their keyboards and the platforms available to trade on.

Where a PC user might use ‘Ctrl’ for certain commands, a Mac user would probably use the ‘Cmd’ key.

As far as platforms — while many popular platforms are available for both operating systems, some work far differently. I want to be as comfortable as I can be with my trading laptop and software. Being able to intuitively use my trading computer’s hot keys is a BIG deal.

The Best Keyboards for Traders

When it comes to hot keys, your keyboard is the most important piece of equipment. Certain keyboards are designed with traders in mind, offering added functionalities like programmable keys, quick access buttons, and ergonomic designs to enhance your trading experience. These are naturals for hot keys.

Brands like Logitech and Razer produce high-end keyboards that offer a high degree of customization. Their programmable keys can be mapped to various trading functions, which is a big deal if hot keys are a big part of your trading strategy.

There are also other considerations like keyboard type. Some traders like the feel of mechanical keyboards, others like flat keyboards. Comfort, layout, response time, durability, and programmability are the factors you should consider.

Examples of Commonly Used Hot Keys in Trading

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I’m going to give you some examples of commonly used hot keys — but keep in mind they could be anything.

The first step is figuring out your trading strategy. Once you do that, it’s just a matter of figuring out the tools you need to get there!

If you trade volatile stocks like I do, you might want to program a hot key to ‘sell all shares of the active stock.’ Another common hot key will ‘cancel all outstanding orders.’

Remember, these are just examples. The real power of hot keys lies in customizing them to suit your unique trading style.

Before you learn how to trade faster, let’s make sure we’re talking about the same things. If you’re new to trading or need a refresher, this comprehensive list of Trading Terms You Need to Know can be a valuable resource. It covers everything from basic terms to advanced concepts, helping you navigate the trading world with confidence.

Key Combinations for Limit Orders

Limit buy and sell orders can be set using specific key combinations. For example, ‘Ctrl + L’ might be used to place a limit buy order — ‘L’ stands for ‘limit’.

You can also get a lot more complicated — like a hot key script for ‘buy limit order for 100 shares at 10 cents above the ask.’

Key Combinations for Position Size Orders

Hot keys can be created for different position size orders.

‘Shift + 1’ might put in an order for 100 shares, ‘Shift + 2’ for 200 shares, and so on.

Key Combinations for Trading Commands

Commands like ‘cancel all orders,’ ‘close all positions,’ or ‘reverse a position’ can be assigned to different key combinations. These hot keys can be lifesavers in an unstable market.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Specific Trading Software

Each trading platform has its own set of default hot keys, and many allow customization. It’s a good idea to check the defaults before you go on recreating the wheel.

Single Keystrokes to Activate the Active Window

You know that whole set of ‘F’ buttons on top of the keyboard that you don’t really use? Single keystrokes, like ‘F1’ or ‘F2’, can be used to activate specific windows within the trading platform, such as order boxes or analysis charts.

Single Keystrokes to Change Chart Types

Switching between chart types can be done with single keystrokes. ‘C’ might switch to a candlestick chart, while ‘B’ could bring up a bar chart.

This can be even more useful for switching between different timeframes.

Read about Technical Analysis in Multiple Timeframes here.

If you get this second nature, your charting abilities will take a leap.

A Guide to Choosing Hot Keys

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Choosing the right hot keys is the biggest part of a successful hot key strategy. In my experience, most traders only use 5-10 hot keys on a regular basis…

They’ll either help you place orders more quickly or flip between windows.

Start by identifying your most frequent trading actions and consider assigning hot keys to these. Be mindful of the keys’ positions on the keyboard — steer well clear of the keyboard shortcut to quit your trading program.

Then consider your broker’s hot key defaults. They might already have what you need in place.

Select a DMA Broker

Choosing a Direct Market Access (DMA) broker can help your hot keys be more effective. DMA brokers provide direct access to exchanges, offering advantages like speedier execution, precise pricing, and enhanced transparency. Crucially for hot key users, they often feature customizable trading platforms, allowing tailor-made hot key setups.

Two of the most popular DMA brokers are Interactive Brokers, which offers DMA through its Trader WorkStation platform, and TD Ameritrade, which offers DMA through thinkorswim.

Key Takeaways

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Hot keys in trading offer numerous advantages, including speed, efficiency, and customization. They allow day traders to respond swiftly to market changes and enhance their trading workflow.

However, it’s important to carefully select and test your hot keys before integrating them into your live trading. One false move can blow up your account.

Integrating hot keys into your trading workflow shouldn’t be the first thing you do as a beginner trader. Instead, consider testing them in a simulated or paper trading environment first. This way you can make sure they function as intended without risking disaster.

Pay attention to how your choice of hot keys affects your speed and decision-making in various trading situations. You’ll gradually build up muscle memory, making the use of hot keys more intuitive over time. Keep a trading journal to track your results.

Just remember, hot keys won’t help you if you’re not executing a sound strategy. Join my Trading Challenge to hone the most important parts of your trading — before you worry about your speed.

What hot keys do you use? Have they helped you become a better trader? Let me know in the comments!


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Timothy Sykes

Tim Sykes is a penny stock trader and teacher who became a self-made millionaire by the age of 22 by trading $12,415 of bar mitzvah money. After becoming disenchanted with the hedge fund world, he established the Tim Sykes Trading Challenge to teach aspiring traders how to follow his trading strategies. He’s been featured in a variety of media outlets including CNN, Larry King, Steve Harvey, Forbes, Men’s Journal, and more. He’s also an active philanthropist and environmental activist, a co-founder of Karmagawa, and has donated millions of dollars to charity. Read More

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* Results are not typical and will vary from person to person. Making money trading stocks takes time, dedication, and hard work. There are inherent risks involved with investing in the stock market, including the loss of your investment. Past performance in the market is not indicative of future results. Any investment is at your own risk. See Terms of Service here

The available research on day trading suggests that most active traders lose money. Fees and overtrading are major contributors to these losses.

A 2000 study called “Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors” evaluated 66,465 U.S. households that held stocks from 1991 to 1996. The households that traded most averaged an 11.4% annual return during a period where the overall market gained 17.9%. These lower returns were attributed to overconfidence.

A 2014 paper (revised 2019) titled “Learning Fast or Slow?” analyzed the complete transaction history of the Taiwan Stock Exchange between 1992 and 2006. It looked at the ongoing performance of day traders in this sample, and found that 97% of day traders can expect to lose money from trading, and more than 90% of all day trading volume can be traced to investors who predictably lose money. Additionally, it tied the behavior of gamblers and drivers who get more speeding tickets to overtrading, and cited studies showing that legalized gambling has an inverse effect on trading volume.

A 2019 research study (revised 2020) called “Day Trading for a Living?” observed 19,646 Brazilian futures contract traders who started day trading from 2013 to 2015, and recorded two years of their trading activity. The study authors found that 97% of traders with more than 300 days actively trading lost money, and only 1.1% earned more than the Brazilian minimum wage ($16 USD per day). They hypothesized that the greater returns shown in previous studies did not differentiate between frequent day traders and those who traded rarely, and that more frequent trading activity decreases the chance of profitability.

These studies show the wide variance of the available data on day trading profitability. One thing that seems clear from the research is that most day traders lose money .

Millionaire Media 66 W Flagler St. Ste. 900 Miami, FL 33130 United States (205) 851-0506 This is for information purposes only as Millionaire Media LLC nor Timothy Sykes is registered as a securities broker-dealer or an investment adviser. No information herein is intended as securities brokerage, investment, tax, accounting or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to sell or buy, or as an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any company, security or fund. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes cannot and does not assess, verify or guarantee the adequacy, accuracy or completeness of any information, the suitability or profitability of any particular investment, or the potential value of any investment or informational source. The reader bears responsibility for his/her own investment research and decisions, should seek the advice of a qualified securities professional before making any investment, and investigate and fully understand any and all risks before investing. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes in no way warrants the solvency, financial condition, or investment advisability of any of the securities mentioned in communications or websites. In addition, Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes accepts no liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this information. This information is not intended to be used as the sole basis of any investment decision, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the investment needs of any particular investor. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future returns.

Citations for Disclaimer

Barber, Brad M. and Odean, Terrance, Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors. Available at SSRN: “Day Trading for a Living?”

Barber, Brad M. and Lee, Yi-Tsung and Liu, Yu-Jane and Odean, Terrance and Zhang, Ke, Learning Fast or Slow? (May 28, 2019). Forthcoming: Review of Asset Pricing Studies, Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=2535636”

Chague, Fernando and De-Losso, Rodrigo and Giovannetti, Bruno, Day Trading for a Living? (June 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=3423101”