Battle of the Orderbook Tools – Jigsaw Vs BookMap
Figuring out which the best trading software to use, is tbh, always a bit of a pain in the rear end. There are many different vendors claiming to give you the edge you need to be successful, with their orderbook tools. In some cases this might be a justifiable claim, but other software will prove to be not much more than an expensive waste of time.
So that you might avoid this sort of issue, I’d like to run through some important considerations when comparing two popular orderbook tools – Jigsaw Trading Tools and BookMap X-Ray. Selecting the right tool for you will come down to a variety of factors, but getting it right will potentially save you a lot of time and money.
Selecting your orderbook software should be based on three key questions: –
- Whether the software can highlight something you’ve pinpointed as a potential trading opportunity
- How well it does this
- What the real cost you have to pay for that privilege is
As straightforward as this might sound, it’s rarely such an easy process in my experience.
What’s your edge?
The first consideration is whether the software can highlight your edge or not. The problem for many people is that they are looking for software that will give them a new edge. Although some software may be able to do this, what’s more likely is that it helps to better highlight something that you already understand to give you an edge.
If you don’t have an idea of what your edge is, it’s difficult to figure out which the best software to highlight it is. This is a really important point. It’s true that you might find a new edge by using a particular trading tool, but the chances are that you will spend a great amount of your hard-earned cash in the process.
It’s true that you might find a new edge by using a particular trading tool, but the chances are that you will spend a great amount of your hard-earned cash in the process.
For those who are unsure, Jigsaw offers extensive orderflow education on their site and for some examples of BookMap usage, take a look at BookMap’s own videos and some of the work done by FuturesTrader71.
In terms of Jigsaw vs. BookMap, they both have some tangible features for reading the orderbook and orderflow, so let’s make the assumption that this is your edge.
How good a job does each tool do?
There are two ways in which each of these particular tools can help to identify orderflow patterns. The first is orderflow in real-time, from moment to moment. The second is the historical representation of the orderbook.
Both tools have two visual representations of real-time orderflow – A heatmap and a DOM. The thing is, neither tool does both things well. The heatmap in Jigsaw feels like a stuttery snapshot, as it updates seemingly every second, in comparison to the wonderfully smooth representation provided in BookMap, which has the ability to efficiently update up to 125 times per second. It’s not only the orderbook that updates more smoothly in BookMap, but also the volume dots grow as the trades happen with far greater fluidity.
It’s with its orderbook heatmap that BookMap excels.
But then you have to consider that although there are a number of great options for BookMap’s customizable columns, by using them to create a pseudo-traditional DOM, the actual display is not especially good. Jigsaw is the clear winner for me if you want to use a traditional DOM.
Although it still has some minor annoyances – namely no cumulative last volume, you can’t choose text alignment and there’s potentially too much information displayed at any given time – Jigsaw’s DOM is far more visually appealing than what BookMap currently offers. Virtually everything displayed is customizable in terms of appearance – and for me, this can make a real difference when staring at your screen for hours on end. The clearer it the DOM is, the easier it is to read and not make mistakes.
Jigsaw’s strength clearly lies in its DOM.
The real innovation of the heatmap was to include a historical representation of the orderbook and it was VeloxPro that stole a march on everyone else when it introduced BookMap to do just this. But competition is high and so often we see that when new features appear in one product, it’s not too long before other vendors add it to their own offering. This is precisely what has happened with Jigsaw’s new Auction Vista display.
Again, there are things I like and dislike about both. Jigsaw’s heatmap allows custom colours and multiple scaling options, with the option of a fixed height DOM-style scaling being particularly appealing. BookMap’s options to customize the heatmap itself, are limited. It also currently only uses auto-scaling which is not very useful if you’re using it to directly trade from. But the way the updates “pulse” in Jigsaw vs. the smooth updating that BookMap achieves, is frankly a little annoying.
The Jigsaw heatmap also gives somewhat poor definition between orders queuing at different prices and compared to even the default settings used by BookMap, it’s not wonderful. BookMap is on this front, far superior and it also allows users to tune brightness and contrast levels to give a greater degree of control over the gradients, depending on the product and trading conditions.
Neither product currently has an easy way of switching between a zoomed out and a close-up view. This is important when you consider how the volume dots are produced – by the volume that trades per pixel. So a minimum volume setting on a zoomed in heatmap is going to produce many more dots on a zoomed out setting, which may not be especially helpful.
Looking at how the two products handle displaying traded volume (Jigsaw = Balance Circles, BookMap = Volume Dots), I far prefer BookMap’s current implementation. It allows you to follow large traders (at least by proxy) by giving users the option to tune minimum traded volume and total volume per dot. For example, you can set a heatmap to only take into account individual trades larger than 10 contracts and only display a dot when it reaches a minimum of 200 total contracts.
Jigsaw does allow you to tune the dots, but with far less precision – using its “Circle Tuner” you can select a level of 1-10 instead of specifying a precise volume threshold.
Jigsaw’s dots are bi-coloured and depending on the amount bought or sold, a dot will show more of the buying or selling colour. BookMap blends the colour depending on the buying/selling balance. Although I prefer this option, I’d like to see both tools offer something to improve the display. Perhaps it would be possible to add a third colour to the scale for equal buy/sell trades or even change the shape of a balanced dot. It might even be a good idea to have a toggle to display the volume traded or delta within each dot so users can easily see the difference between dot sizes.
The one thing Jigsaw has over BookMap here, is that although not directly relating to the heatmap itself, it has a reconstructed tape or time & sales window. This attempts to fix the issue where the CME “unbundled” trade data, by using an algorithm to re-bundle orders into the size they were executed at market. BookMap kind of does this by default with volume dots, but if you’re a fan of time & sales, Jigsaw’s the way to go.
One really important point to note here is that historical bid x ask data isn’t available on most datafeeds. Jigsaw has the ability to record this data if it’s running and so does BookMap. But only Jigsaw stitches this data together. With BookMap, each data file works separately, so if you close the software and reopen it later on in the same session, you won’t be able to see the data that you’ve already recorded.
Market replay is a great tool to get in sync with a market. Jigsaw does not currently have a built in replay function, so instead it will use this function from whichever platform you’re choosing to run it on (Ninjatrader/S5 Trader/OEC/Multicharts .net).
This isn’t a review of the platforms Jigsaw can run on, so I won’t go into what they are capable of in terms of market replay.
As BookMap is a standalone platform, it does have its own replay functionality. Whilst for the most part it works as it should, the fact that you cannot rewind or use a scroll navigation to skip forward, does make using it a rather tedious affair. That said, because of its efficient data handling, when you scroll back on the heatmap during the active session, it displays what the orderbook looked like at that time. This is a really powerful feature and can help a trader see how a market reacted to a level for example.
Let’s hope BookMap improves the full replay feature soon 😉
Jigsaw does everything you would expect from a top trading DOM. Its DOM is good, it’s highly customizable and it allows traders to enter OCO’s and custom smart order types (depending on which platform it’s running on). But there’s also nothing particularly innovative on offer. The argument could be made that it’s pointless to mess about with something that already works well. But then again, this isn’t likely to bring long-term innovative improvements either.
BookMap’s order entry system on the other hand, is trying to innovate. Its order entry method, directly from the heatmap, is far more intuitive than a traditional DOM and it means that a trader doesn’t have to be constantly flicking their eyes between a DOM and the heatmap. But then innovation rarely comes without teething pains.
The method used for order placement and moving orders is to say the least, not always wonderfully intuitive. Left click for buys, right for sells. Shift + left/right click for stops. Middle button to cancel. Click and drag outside of the normal trade column to move an order. Control + click and drag to move all stacked orders. Man.
Not the simplest thing to get used to I’m afraid and I’m sure that there have been plenty of trading errors made as a result. But then things have dramatically improved since the initial release of trading functionality within BookMap and it very much looks like they are on the right trajectory. They’ve added a new trade panel with multiple order types (as seen above) for example.
An important point to note is about data connectivity. Whilst you must run Jigsaw from the same platform you’re using for charting or trading and therefore adhere to that platform’s data connectivity requirements, BookMap is for the most part a standalone platform. This means that it must connect separately. If you’re using it through S5 Trader or IQFeed, this isn’t an issue as they allow you to open multiple connections through the same login. But using CQG for example, you’d need an additional login.
Putting a value on a piece of software should always be about far more than simply the price of purchase. The full prices of Jigsaw and BookMap are $399 and $999 respectively, although the latter has already demonstrated that it is willing to provide the occasional fantastic discount.
But the value of the software really needs to be assessed more comprehensively. How well does it do what you want it to? What does that functionality bring you in terms of time and p/l potential value? How compatible is the software with your current tools? How much time does it take to learn the new software?
Jigsaw has a far more advanced DOM – one that I suspect will further refined over time. They could try to compete with BookMap on the orderbook heatmap front, but to be honest, they’d probably be fighting a losing battle. VeloxPro was born out of the world of HFT and their expertise in handling large amounts of historical data is clearly evident in BookMap.
BookMap is also built around the historical orderbook heatmap at its core, rather than adding it in as an afterthought. If you want to base your trading around orderflow, there is imo, currently only one clear winner – BookMap.
When all is said and done, Jigsaw’s Auction Vista is a decent addition to the arsenal of features they already offer, but it’s probably only a good starting point for someone who wants an orderbook heatmap. Having said that, I do feel that Jigsaw Trading Tools is a vast improvement over some of the default DOM’s you get and in particular, the Ninja Trader DOM.
Ultimately the question of which tool you go with comes down to what you’re really looking for. Are you looking for an orderbook solution? Are you looking to try out a new way of what is fundamentally tape reading? Are you already reading the orderbook and looking for a better way to do it? Or are you really just looking for a better DOM?
If you already own Jigsaw, it’s a great additional feature to try out. But if the heatmap is something you feel is going to be the focal point of your trading, BookMap is far superior.
My conclusion is that like so many other examples of trading software, there’s rarely a 100% one-stop shop. Many vendors try to provide this, but the simple fact is that you get a better solution by using multiple specialized products. Of course, this isn’t going to be financially viable for all traders, so it’s great to have more economical solutions available.
- If you’re looking for an upgrade and want to stay with a more traditional DOM, Jigsaw is the tool you might want to go with
- If you want a powerful new way of looking at the historical orderbook and an innovative trading interface, BookMap wins hands down