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Understanding Indicators vs Strategies in Pine Script

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In Pine Script™, a powerful scripting language tailored for creating custom technical analysis tools, the distinction between indicators and strategies is fundamental. This distinction not only influences the development process but also affects how traders and analysts apply these tools on the TradingView platform. Below, we delve into the specifics of both components, highlighting their functionalities, differences, and optimal use cases.

What are Indicators in Pine Script?

Indicators are calculations or algorithms designed to process price data (and possibly volume or other market data) to produce visual outputs on a chart. These outputs can be in the form of lines, histograms, dots, and more, providing insights into market conditions or potential price movements. In Pine Script™, indicators are primarily used for analysis and visualization purposes.

Key Features of Pine Script™ Indicators:

  • Resource Efficiency: They run faster and use fewer resources since they do not engage the broker emulator.
  • Visualization: This can be plotted over the chart’s bars (overlay mode) or in a separate pane.
  • Alert Generation: Capable of triggering alert events based on specific conditions.

What are the Strategies in Pine Script?

Strategies, on the other hand, are a step up in complexity and functionality. They include not only the calculation logic found in indicators but also incorporate strategy.*() function calls. These calls are essential for sending trade orders within Pine Script™’s simulated trading environment, allowing for both historical backtesting and forward testing.

Key Features of Pine Script™ Strategies:

  • Backtesting and Forward Testing: Enable simulation of trading strategies using historical data to evaluate performance.
  • Broker Emulator: Uses Pine Script™’s broker emulator for simulating trade execution, providing insights into potential trading outcomes.
  • Strategy Tester: Results are displayed in the TradingView platform under the “Strategy Tester” tab, offering detailed performance analysis.
  • Trade Order Management: Contains functionalities for sending, modifying, and managing trade orders within the script.

Differences Between Indicators and Strategies

  • Functional Scope: Strategies are more comprehensive, allowing for backtesting and trade simulation, whereas indicators are focused on market analysis and visualization.
  • Resource Usage: Indicators are more lightweight and run faster due to the absence of the broker emulator requirement.
  • Application: Strategies are suited for testing trading hypotheses and automating trade decisions, while indicators are ideal for live market analysis and decision support.

Choosing Between Indicators and Strategies

The choice between using an indicator or a strategy hinges on the user’s objectives:

  • For Analysis and Visualization: Choose indicators for their speed and efficiency.
  • For Trading Simulation and Backtesting: Opt for strategies to leverage the full suite of Pine Script™’s trading simulation capabilities.

Both indicators and strategies can operate in overlay or pane mode, offering flexibility in how information is displayed on the chart. Additionally, both can generate alert events, making them versatile tools for traders and analysts.

Key Takeaways

  • Indicators are best for real-time market analysis and visualization, being resource-efficient and fast.
  • Strategies allow for comprehensive backtesting and forward testing, simulating trade orders, and analyzing performance in depth.
  • Both can be used for plotting data and generating alerts, albeit with different scopes and purposes.


Understanding the distinction between indicators and strategies in Pine Script™ is crucial for developing effective trading tools and strategies. Whether you’re aiming for in-depth market analysis or testing trading hypotheses, Pine Script™ offers the flexibility and functionality to meet a wide range of trading needs.

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