The top-rated online brokers on Barron's survey this year are TradeStation and thinkorswim. I read the review and decided thinkorswim might be for me. I go through the whole registration process even though at this point I just want to use their "papertrade" feature to test the effect of creating a portfolio with individual stocks instead of indexes.

The screen is dizzying, I haven't seen any way to change the colors--that black background is extremely hard on my eyes. It's not intuitive to me, so I take the time to watch some of their demos and tutorials. Then I go to do a simple screen based on a slow stochastic, but couldn't find any information about how to do that so I used their "live chat" help. To discover their software doesn't do that.

I'm shocked and disappointed. thinkorswim (the whole web 2.0 we're-too-cool-to-use-capital-letters really annoys me) was rated higher than TDAmeritrade (the online broker I use most) in all but one category. Yet I was able to set up up slow stochastic screen using TDA's "Strategy Desk" software in under a minute. They have a nice wizard so I just searched on K% < 25 AND D% < K% then sorted the results by today's percentage gain and picked the top three with decent liquidity (BGP, BID, FTO). I was hoping to do the same using thinkorswim's platform so I can start paper-trading, but as I just mentioned, I can only do the 22 screens they've set up, and none of them particularly interest me at this point.

Now I'm sad since I had already seen that thinkorswim has columns for Industry Division, Industry Sector, and Industry Group which would be very helpful for me to see when researching what stocks to choose, and my current software doesn't have that. Waaah. Why can't I just get software with everything I want?

I know the answer to that one--because I don't feel like paying for it. Perhaps there are better professional systems out there but I'm not ready to start paying for them yet. I'm not ruling it out for the future, but for now I'll make do with what's available even though I don't like it and I have to duplicate efforts across multiple programs to track things the way I want to.