Custom Studies, Alerts, and Trading Systems

Forgiving Computers develops custom tools that can help you with your trading. We use the extensible features of Sierra Chart, including spreadsheets, ACSIL (C++ DLLs), custom alert formulas, and trade management based on your rules.

Some examples:

  • Studies: Completely new or a combination of existing studies
  • Alerts: Signal conditions that depend on your rules
  • Trading Systems: Automatic Entries, Exits, moving stops and targets, scaling in and out

If you can describe your needs in objective terms, it can probably be coded.

Contact us for a quote:





Why are DLLs better than Spreadsheets?

Forgiving Computers began developing trading systems using spreadsheets for Sierra Chart. If you are familiar with Excel or other spreadsheet applications, you know spreadsheets provide a quick way to do number crunching with immediate results. The Sierra Spreadsheet functionality integrates the ease of use of spreadsheets with the ability to combine price action data, with study results (Moving Averages, Bollinger Bands, etc.) and create signals or new studies based on the data of the current and previous candles.

A Dynamic-Link Library, or DLL, is an Application Extension that adds functionality to Windows applications in a modular way. Studies provided by Sierra Chart are written in C++ and compiled into DLLs. Customs studies and systems can be added to your charts the same way. DLLs can be shared across charts and chartbooks with none of the drawbacks of sharing spreadsheets across chartbooks.

There are several advantages to this approach.

  1. Speed
  2. Memory
  3. Independence
  4. Complexity


Because DLLs are compiled, they use the processor’s native instruction set to perform calculations. Spreadsheets add layers of overhead. Whether it is a Spreadsheet Study, System with Alerts, or Trading System, the data has to get into the spreadsheet in the proper format, be processed with the specific formulas needed to determine the results, and then translated back into the study that incorporates the results into your charts. Also, the spreadsheet has to wait for all the studies to complete their processing before beginning to evaluate results. All that takes time, even though the spreadsheet study itself is compiled, the formulas that make up the spreadsheets are converted from Excel format to an internal format.  This can result in trades being taken fractions of a second later than with DLLs.

If you use the same spreadsheet in multiple chartbooks, using the same chart number, Sierra will update the “sheet” for the first chartbook, then moments later, update the next, and so on. This is inefficient and can cause more delays. (This is why you need to take extra steps to “clone” a chartbook with spreadsheets.)


DLLs take up less space in memory and on your disk. One copy of the DLL is sufficient for all the charts it is attached to, where you need multiple copies of spreadsheets to avoid the above update cycle. Less memory usage also improves performance.


A compiled C++ DLL study is “linked” into the main Sierra application, in as many places as you like. No “cloning” is needed to maintain top performance, as is necessary with spreadsheets.


More functionality is available to the custom study with DLLs. For example, BID/ASK data, and Volume Profile data can be incorporated into a custom study with DLLs, but not with spreadsheets.

Other advantages include automatic installation and updating, user-based licensing, copy protection, and time-limited trial versions.

There are some disadvantages to using DLLs. Spreadsheets can be used to quickly develop studies to try out ideas and see results quickly. C++ requires some programming skills, where spreadsheets require some Excel skills. As with anything worth learning, expertise comes with time.


C++ based custom studies provide the best methods for adding functionality to Sierra Chart. They can be used for new studies, creating alerts, and for complete auto-trading solutions.  Forgiving Computers is in the business of providing trading solutions. We will develop most new studies in C++, however, we will also do custom spreadsheet solutions for customers that want them. Either way, we want you the trader to be successful with the custom decision support tools we provide.

Auto-Trading Basics


Auto Trade Setup

CAUTION: Auto Trading with live money is risky, and should NOT be enabled without supervision! There is no Holy Grail. It is not “Set it and forget it”. You are solely responsible for all trades taken manually or automatically. Plan on monitoring all Auto Trades. 

One strategy followed by many auto traders is to leave Auto Trading Disabled until you start seeing arrows forming, and then when you like where price action is going, enable Auto-Trading. After entering the trade, immediately disabling auto trading will allow you to exit the trade knowing it won’t jump in on the next candle that may not be one you want to enter on.

Auto Trading in Sierra can be done in Simulation Mode (local or server based) or with Live Money. There are several safety checks in place to make sure you really want to trade live money. You can see the Auto Trade signals (Arrows) at all times, only if all the Auto Trade switches have been enabled will it trade live money.

  • Startup: Auto Trade is Disabled

Your Trade Menu should look like this when you start up Sierra Chart:

The only item checked is “Disable Auto Trading on Startup. This should stay checked. That way the next time you start Sierra, you won’t start Auto Trading unexpectedly.


  • Enable Global Auto Trading

This is the Master Switch that turns on and off all (Global) Auto Trading. Note that turning it on the first time will not begin Auto-Trading, it is more like the Big Red Switch or EMO that shuts off any Auto Trading that is going on. For now, we will turn it on by doing Trade>>Auto Trading Enabled – Global.

Each Chart can also have Auto Trading Enabled or Disabled. The setting for the chart is Auto Trading Enabled – Chart. This setting is saved with the chartbook. The default is that it is disabled.

Your Trade menu should look like this:

Any chart that you are OK with Auto Trading from should have checkmarks for both Auto Trading Enabled – Global and Auto Trading Enabled – Chart.


  • Disable Auto Trading from charts you don’t want to auto trade from

Any chart you don’t want to Auto Trade from should have “Auto Trading Enabled – Chart”  UNCHECKED.

Like this:

  • Ready to Auto-Trade? Remember Auto Trading is not “set it and forget it”. Its main benefit is the timing of the entries as soon as the proper conditions are met. You should plan on monitoring all trades, and take control if it is not going as you think it should. Also watch for trades taken near the end of the trading day, as they may not exit automatically!


  1. Live Trading (Real money or Simulation Server when available)

Trades are sent to the trade service, and if it is the Live Service, real money is at stake.


  1. Uncheck Trade>Trade Simulation On

  1. Studies: ID1 S3 V3 Auto Trade Settings
    • Send orders to Trade Service = Yes


  • Confirm you have checked Trade>>Auto Trading Enabled – Global and Trade>Auto Trading Enabled – Chart
  1. SIM (Local Sierra Simulation Server – use for Playback, Back-testing, and Forward Testing)


All trades are simulated on your machine, whether you are connected to the trade service or not.


  1. Check Trade>Trade Simulation Mode On

  1. Confirm trades are not being sent to the Trade Service.
    1. Edit Study: ID:1 S3 V3 Auto Trading System (or whichever Spreadsheet Study you are using)

  • Confirm you have checked Trade> Auto Trading Enabled – Global and Trade>Auto Trading Enabled – Chart


  1. Disable Live Trading:
    1. All Charts in All Chartbooks: Uncheck Trade>>Auto Trading Enabled – Global
    2. Just Specific Charts: Uncheck Trade>>Auto Trading Enabled – Chart.

Note that you can disable Auto Trade for specific charts by Unchecking Auto Trading Enabled – Chart for each chart you want disabled. The Global setting controls ALL Auto Trading.




Buttons for Auto-Trade Enable/Disable


To simplify the setting of the Auto Trade-Global and Auto Trade Chart, you may want to add a button for each to the control bar.


  1. To do this click Global Settings>>Customize Control Bars>> Control Bar 1 (or whichever one you are using).
  2. On the left scroll down to Trade and click the “+” sign to expand the list:

  1. Scroll down to “Auto Trading On/Off – Global|ATG” and select it and click “Add->”
  2. You will see the selected item move to the right side:
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for “Auto Trading On/Off | ATC” and click OK.
  4. You should now have two buttons labeled ATG and ATC on your control bar.

Note the ATG is Enabled because it appears depressed, the ATC is not enabled.

The ATC button will change appearance as you go from one chart to another depending on whether that chart is enabled or not. This is a shortcut to visually check the setting and to change it quickly.

Custom Studies in Sierra Chart

Forgiving Computers began developing trading systems for Sierra Chart, which has a very powerful user interface for creating and combining studies, alerts, and trading systems. At first, spreadsheet studies were used, due to their simplicity and ease of creating new tools. Spreadsheets, which automatically import price data and the values of the attached chart studies, allow new formulas to combine input data to create new outputs: lines, symbols, backgrounds, alerts, and trade entries and exits.

While flexible and relatively simple, the spreadsheet studies create a new set of complications.  For one, they cannot be shared between chart books. To do so would create a performance bottleneck on top of the overhead provided by the spreadsheet functionality. Another drawback is the performance penalty of using spreadsheets since the study is going through a layer of translation into and out of the spreadsheet.

The alternative to creating custom studies in spreadsheets is to write them in a high-level programming language and compiling them to plug-in efficiently to the Sierra Chart platform. Sierra provides an Application Programming Interface (API) called ACSIL, or Advanced Custom Study/System Interface and Language. This allows new studies to be written in C++,  the same open source programming language that not only Sierra Chart is written in, but C++ and its older relative C, are the “languages of choice” when performance is important (think operating systems, drivers, games, browsers, etc.). By writing custom studies and trading systems in C++ we get the benefits of a rich programming interface, which means we can get “under the hood” and do things that the spreadsheet studies cannot do. For example, order flow data (i.e. Number Bars in Sierra) is available in ACSIL but not in spreadsheets. Will C++ DLL studies, Trade Order Quantity does not have to be set in two places, the study has its own inputs, without relying on another study for Inputs. The potential for more and better advanced systems is far higher with hard coded, C++, studies.

The S3, T3, and W3 trading systems have all been rewritten in C++, and they are now available as DLL files, as all studies included in Sierra Chart are. There is no issue with sharing DLL files across chartbooks, as each chart gets its own copy of the study without being shared. Their compact size means improved performance. Also, they can be made available to customers on a time limited trial basis, allowing you to test drive them before buying. Besides being smaller and faster, the DLL’s are automatically installed in your data folder (even if you have more than one instance) and are automatically updated.

From this point on there will no longer be system development or updates for spreadsheet systems. They will continue to function, but support for them will end sometime this summer. You are encouraged to give the tools a try and compare it side by side with the spreadsheet system. Owners of the Version 1 and 2 systems will receive a discount off the lifetime subscription equal to the price they paid for the spreadsheet system(s).

Version 3 Auto Trader Studies are Here!

At long last, it is my pleasure to announce the immediate availability of the new and improved S3, T3, and W3 Custom Studies, completely re-written in C++ using the Sierra Chart ACSIL interface. By writing the auto-trading systems in C++, users will obtain multiple benefits, including the option of a free 30-day trial. The studies eliminate the Spreadsheets previously used, and the problems that go with them.  All future development will be in C++ and the previous versions of the studies will no longer be available.

Sierra Chart/AT is written in C++. an open-source, high level programming language that compiles into very efficient code that can be extended with custom studies using Dynamic Link Libraries (DLL’s) that are automatically installed for licensed users upon startup of the trading platform. The new Version 3 studies can be used in multiple charts and chartbooks at the same time with no issues, as they all appear to be separate programs to the application.  With no overhead from Spreadsheet studies, the DLLs will perform faster, use less memory and disk space, and be automatically updated with new features and bug fixes. Also, they have their own study setup parameters, eliminating the need to have a separate “Inputs” study.

The new studies will be available on a subscription basis, with monthly, quarterly, and annual subscriptions available. The subscriptions require a configuration of your Sierra Chart username, which you can find in Help>>About. The Sierra Account.  When the configuration is done, you receive an email confirming order completion. At that time you will need to stop and restart the Sierra/AT platform, in order to download the chartbooks and custom DLL files.

Customers who purchased the spreadsheet versions of the trading systems will receive a coupon code(s) to apply towards the purchase of the new systems. Look for the coupon codes in your email.  While the previous versions of the studies will continue to work, there will not be any further development of the spreadsheet-based systems. You are encouraged to sign-up for a risk susbcription, including one month free. Should you cancel before the end of the trial period,  there will be no more charges.  You can read more about the Subscription Terms and Conditions by clicking here.

It has taken some time for me to learn how to code in C++, as I cut my teeth on BASIC and FORTRAN back in the ’70s.  While a lot can be done with spreadsheets, there are significant limitations using them. I plan on adding new systems and features, which will make auto-trading more advanced. For example, the DLL studies can access Order Flow data, while the spreadsheets cannot.

I look forward to hearing from you when you have had a chance to try them out. Please feel free to leave product reviews as well.

I look forward to the new chapter in Trading Systems Development.



New Versions of Studies Coming

Hi all, I wanted to give an update to the blog about the work I am doing with the trading system studies. I have decided that from now on all new development will be done in C++, the internal programming language of Sierra Chart. The benefits are many: faster, tighter code, faster decision making, smaller memory usage, no issues with sharing SCSS files between chart books, automatic updates, and I can offer customers trial versions. I have completed the S3 and T3 studies, and I am in the process of completing the documentation, videos, and web pages. I hope to have everything ready to go early June 2018.



Online Training

With remote control software, we can share screens and I can provide one on one training in the Sierra Chart application. Maybe you need some time getting to learn all the details, or just want to know how to do a specific task. I am an experienced IT Professional, Software Developer, and Trainer.  Want to learn how to use trailing stops? How about alerts? Wondered how spread sheets work with Sierra? Wonder no more, as we can work together to make your trading platform more familiar.  This was the thinking behind the name Forgiving Computers. We make computers less challenging and more useful.

Spring Newsletter

Forgiving Computers Newsletter



Spring is here! We have been busy at Forgiving Computers working on getting new products online as well as fixing up the web site to be more user friendly and helpful. If you haven’t been there in a while, there are several new products and enhancements.

  1. New Trading Systems for Sierra Chart
    1. A new trend following system called W3 has been added. It is based on moving average crossovers and can produce some excellent returns.
    2. The popular S3 Auto Trader has been updated to Version 2 with several fixes. Current date code is 180303.
    3. The T3 system as has been automated and is available to download. Date code: 20180226
    4. An S3/T3 combo is also available with both automated systems side-by-side in the same chartbook. Date code: 180317
  2. Site improvements
    1. A new shopping cart application was installed, which allows for coupon codes and customer groups.
    2. Blogging entries have been started, and will continue as we move forward.
    3. Wiki Based user manuals and troubleshooting.
    4. Online support ticketing.
    5. PayPal and Stripe payment options give flexibility in shopping.
    6. Improved menus with drop downs.
    7. My Downloads, a page of all your previous downloads. As the programs are updated you can download them again for free. (If you don’t see anything, please open a support ticket, the old shopping cart orders were not migrated.)
  3. Notice for all users: Due to a limitation uncovered recently with Sierra Chart, it is necessary to keep all your trading charts in the New York time zone, or the levels and studies that are overlaid from other charts will be shifted in time, and be incorrect.

As a customer of Forgiving Computers I value your business, and if there is anything you would like to see more of, please feel free to let me know.

Your friend in trading,

Brad Houser

Welcome Sierra Chart Users

My name is Brad Houser. I have been using Sierra Chart for over 2 years, after having used TradeStation and ThinkorSwim. I find it very flexible, lightweight, and powerful. It takes a little getting used to, and its UI is sort of reminiscent of Windows NT. However, since it is written in C++, it uses much less memory than the other platforms, and it performs much faster.

I started creating Studies with Spreadsheets and have found them to be very versatile and straightforward. I gradually got some auto trading studies working, and wanted to share them with other Sierra Chart users who are interested in exploring them. Auto-trading can be helpful if you have a trading plan that follows a set of mechanical rules for getting into and exiting a trade. It is not a good idea to let them run without supervision, as you may need to use some discretion if market conditions are not according to your plan. I have created auto trading chartbooks for futures that are configurable for various scenarios. They also help you stick to your plan by setting Daily Maximum profit and loss limits that will shut off auto trading when met. Even if you don’t use the signal for automatic trading, these trading systems can help you decide if you want to manually enter a trade or not.

If there is a system you would like me to develop, I can let you know if I can code it for you. I charge different amounts if it is only to be for you, or if I can resell it to others. Let me know in the Contact Us form.