Chapter 5 — Which Interactive Brokers trading platform should you use?

Last updated:: May 14, 2023

Logo Interactive Brokers

After creating my Interactive Brokers account in 2016, I had to choose one of their trading platform to connect to my account.

“And then, we got a problem…”

I found myself in front of no less than 4 different choices!

All of them have an IB history that is easily explained. But when you’re new to the world of the stock market, it can be scary.

The 4 ways to connect to your Interactive Brokers account

I think we weren’t the only ones who had this concern about understanding what tool is used for what, because IB did a great job on clarifying which will make my life easier for this part of the tutorial :)

There are 4 different trading platform options to connect to your new Interactive Brokers account:

  1. Client portal
  2. Desktop TWS (Trader Workstation)
  3. IBKR Mobile
  4. IBot

Let’s review them all with some useful screenshots from the Interactive Brokers website.
And then I’ll explain to you what the best version is for you.

1. Interactive Brokers client portal

This is the IB website where you log in, and then you have access to all your information and you can even trade there. It’s very similiar to your ebanking.

Below is a full explanation of the “what” and “for whom” as presented on the Interactive Brokers website:

Interactive Brokers client portal

2. Desktop TWS (Trader Workstation)

Now you’re starting to understand IB’s history. This software tool is an application that is installed on your computer. It was there before the web version presented in point 1 above.
When I started with IB, it was the one I used as you can see in this article.

Desktop TWS (Trader Workstation)

3. IBKR Mobile

Normal evolution for any company that wants to digitalise: a mobile application. If you are a long-time Interactive Brokers customer, you will still remember the time when you had a dedicated app to secure your account and this IBKR app separately. Fortunately, that time is over and now it’s a single Interactive Brokers mobile application for everything.

In case, any of you readers don’t understand what IBKR means, it’s simply Interactive BroKeRs :)

IBKR Mobile

4. IBot

Logical evolution: after the mobile application, the chatbot. You know, it’s that thing that looks like an instant messaging thing that you have on websites or on Facebook Messenger. The idea is that you talk like in a conversation with a human, except that it’s a robot that listen to you (more or less) and answers you.
I personally have never used the IB one (which is present in their IBKR Mobile app but also on the web customer portal and TWS) so let me know your opinion if you have already tested it.


What can you buy/sell on each Interactive Brokers platform?

As I said earlier, IB has done a fantastic job of clarifying its entire trading platform suite.
If you’re like me and only buy ETFs, stocks, or bonds, then the good news is that all platforms allow you to do it. As a reminder, ETFs are included in the shares row, so that’s why you can’t see an “ETFs” row.

Here are the securities you can buy/sell depending on the Interactive Brokers platform you use

What features are available on each Interactive Brokers platform?

We continue with the different features (I don’t even use 1/10th of them!) which are accessible or not depending on the platform you use:

Trading features for each Interactive Brokers platform

Different advanced analysis tools depending on the Interactive Brokers platform you use

What Interactive Brokers trading platform do I use, in a nutshell

A long time ago, I only used the TWS platform because I thought you could only buy/sell securities with it.

Then I discovered the minimalist web version “IBKR WebTrader” that I used once to try it out.

Then IB updated all its documentation with the new web customer portal and the mobile app.

So, since about the end of 2017, this is my process in general:

  1. I use the Interactive Brokers client portal to announce a bank transfer
  2. I regularly check on the IBKR mobile app to see if my transfer arrived
  3. I then use the client portal to change currencies if necessary (I still use TWS sometimes out of habit, but the client portal is now really great)
  4. I buy my ETFs/shares via the client portal (or TWS, as in point 3). I recently bought once via the IBKR mobile app because it was for a “value investing” purchase that I wanted to make as soon as possible. But I’m not comfortable using the app for my purchases/sales
  5. I monitor the performance (profit and loss) of my portfolio via the IBKR mobile application
  6. Then I use the “Statements” function of the Interactive Brokers client portal to: update my YNAB, check my dividends, and fill in my Swiss taxes

Regarding login, each time and for each platform, Interactive Brokers will send you a push notification on your mobile to authenticate you in a secure way just as I explained in this dedicated chapter of this guide.

Which Interactive Brokers trading platform should you use first?

Personally, I recommend that you start with the Interactive Brokers client portal because it contains everything you need to buy your first ETFs. It is the best IBKR Broker due to it’s simple design and you won’t get lost in the platform. Once you are comfortable with the client portal, then you can copy my modus operandi above.

There you go, I hope the IBKR trading platform environment is clearer for you now!

In the next chapter, we take action with currency exchange! This is something you need to know how to do because at some point you will want to buy an ETF/share in EUR or USD.

As usual, I only write and review things that I use in my personal daily life, or that I trust.

Thank you for reading!