Some people like the excel and need it/want it to make money. Indeed many hedge/clearing broker/institutional prop operations apparently use excel. True statistical arbitrage would require something more like excel or a custom application. By hardcore, I generally meant high frequency or very short term trading. On a cost benefit analysis, TradeStation is a value. X-trader would cost $500 a month at the cheapest available broker (Velocity). A custom application would either be very expensive or would require you to be an expert in programming (so much so it might hard to be a trader). I do not think you could get any retail product comparable to TradeStation for less than $200 (plus data) and I don't think any professionaly products start much below $400. I do not know of any advertised retail backtesting engines that actually test to the true tick. Likewise I know of none that can actually backtest with quote size. Strategy Runner says that it does, but I personally am cynical. Of course, I also have not tried them and I tend to be overly cynical. With TradeStation, you need to use elaborate workarounds, particularly as the time frame shortens, to get valid results. TS has forums that are richer than this one that deal with techniques on how to do that sort of thing. Usually adding a random variable. TradeStation is a good product, but it has left me wanting more. Their execution is solid (except when their servers are occasionally down, but all brokers have that). Their charting and general flexibility is good. I think true backtesting is best done somewhat manually. Acquire data, format it to your liking and analyze it. Excel is good for this, but it is a tough slog. X-trader and J-trader supposedly "record" the market to very short intervals. Not sure why the do not capture every message, but apparently they do not. I have never tried to backtest with them, but they may work. The few times I have done J-trader like (or what I thought were J-trader like) demos, I have been disappointed, but perhaps that is because they were demos. The biggest disappointment about TradeStation is that while they seem to fumble a bit as an operation, I get the sense they could be greater, greater even than X-trader and all that, but they seem to like where they are.