Last updated July 3, 2023

Here, we'll walk through how to use your pro trading journal built for Apex traders using NinjaTrader 8.

Access the trading journal template by signing up for Apex Evaluations through our Apex Coupon + Bonuses offer.

Trading Journal Template Excel / Google Sheets

This trading template uses copy-paste trade entry and formulas to track your trades. It then provides powerful but simple analysis for all your trades.

On the analysis tab, you can see statistical calculations for every strategy and every tag you use:

  • Win rate %
  • Loss rate %
  • Breakeven %
  • Total profit or loss
  • Total risk
  • R:R
  • Average winning trade
  • Average losing trade
  • Efficiency to MFE
  • Average efficiency to MFE
  • Average position MFE
  • Average position MAE

You get to choose your own strategies to track, with whatever labels you want. For tags, you get four columns, each with a set of tags. You can use the pre-filled ones and/or customize your own.

1) Download and open the Trading Journal 

Check your email for the link to download the journal. Clicking the link should open the file in your browser, with a button at the top to download it. Click "Download File"

Now you have the journal on your computer. Make sure to move it to a folder where you can easily find it in the future.

If you have Microsoft Excel, you can open it with that. If you don't, you'll need to install some spreadsheet software. I use WPS Spreadsheet. It's free and easy to use, sometimes even easier than Excel.

2) Customize Trade Setups and Trade Tags

Before you start entering your data, customize your trade setup and tags menus. This is done through the Data Validation tool.

You'll be editing what shows up in this dropdown. You can do the same with each of the cells in columns labeled "Tag Group..."

Data validation tools vary between spreadsheet software, so yours may look different from this (shown in WPS).

1. Select cell U5, under Setup.

2. Go to the Data menu, and select Validation, then hit Validation again.

This will show you the data validation menu for whatever cell you have selected. You can see where I have cells under "Setup" set with Source: 'SetupA,Setup B,Setup C,Setup D'.

3. Now, edit these with your preferred setup names. Try to keep them short, and make sure they stay in the right format - Each validation label needs to be separated by a comma just as they are now.

You can do more than four if you need, or you can do less than three. You can name them whatever you want.

4. Save it for the column:

  1. Once you have entered all your setup names separated by commas, hit 'Save'.
  2. Use the cursor to hover over the bottom right corner of cell U5 until the mouse cursor becomes a plus sign.
  3. Click, and drag down the sheet as far as you would like. You can always drag it further down later.

5. Then, scroll to the right until you get to columns Y through AB, where you see the column headers for tags.

You'll edit these the same way you edited them for the trade setup labels.


Brainstorm the tags you might like to analyze, and group them into sets. Avoid having overlap between sets. That way, only one tag from each set will apply to each trade, as much as possible.

There's more information about tags and why they're helpful further down this page. If you're new to that concept, I recommend reading all of that before choosing your tags.

You can have as many tags in each set as you want, but keep it as simple as you can.

When you're done with each, don't forget to drag them down the column as you did the others. 

3) Export and Import Your Trades

Now it's time to take your trades from NinjaTrader and put them in your trading journal. It's a simple process, but it won't work unless you follow the instructions, so make sure to repeat every step exactly as instructed below.

Before you get started, read this: Although it's your file, there are still parts that should stay untouched, since they contain formulas. Those areas are protected for your benefit. If you try, you won't be able to edit them. If you try to unprotect the sheet, you'll be asked for a password. Just hit cancel. That way you don't accidentally break any of the formulas in the template.

1. Go to Ninjatrader Control Center, and click on 'New'

2. Select 'Trade Performance' to open the trade performance window.

3. Hit the filter button to select filters

4. Check the box for any account(s) you want to export. You shouldn't need to mess with the other filters.

5. Check the dates on the upper right and edit as desired to export the right days.

6. Hit 'Generate' button next to the dates.

7. Right click on the data, then click 'Export...'

8. Click next to 'Save as type:' and select CSV(*.csv)

9. Choose what folder you want to export to, and hit 'Save'.

Once you've done each of these steps exactly:

1. Open the saved CSV export file.

1. Select all the trade data inside the sheet without the column headers.

2. Copy the data using Ctrl + C or right-click > copy

3. Open the journal file.

4. Click the first blank cell in the "Trade #" Column. On your first import, this should be cell A5.

5. Paste without formattingDepending on which spreadsheet program you use, this may be called different things. The best way, on windows, is to ue CTRL + Shift + V. In Other methods might include going to "Paste Special" > "Paste Values" or "Paste without formatting". If you're not sure, Google "Paste without formatting in [whatever spreadsheet program you're using]"

Now you're ready to finish your Trading Journal entries!

4) Complete your journal entries

Now that your trades have been entered in the journal, you need to do a little journaling. There are two columns in which you can enter information that only you know - Initial Risk, and Notes. 

This will clear out all the data. It will also clear out all the data that is formula-driven. Don't panic! That's supposed to happen. The formulas are still there, they're just written to be blank if they don't have the data.

In the "Initial Risk" column, for each trade, enter what your specific risk was for that trade, in your account currency (Dollars, Euros, etc.). This will allow the formulas in the spreadsheet to help you with your R factor, or Reward:Risk ratio.

In the "Notes" Column, enter notes that might be helpful later. These should be things that aren't necessarily covered by your use of tags. A couple quick ideas on notes to record:
1) Detail your thoughts before/during/after the trade, be specific and include self-talk, etc.

2) Note specific things about the market that day. These can be patterns, events, data releases, etc. i.e. trending market, FOMC day, AAPL earnings.

5) Analyze your data

Click the 'Analysis' tab at the bottom. Spend a moment playing with the sample data analysis.

screenshot of excel showing how to find the tables and pie charts for the trading journal template

Take a few minutes to see how the results change when you filter by setup or filter by tag. To do that:

  1. Hover over the "Setup C" cell highlighted in bright green.
  2. Click the downward pointing triangle to see the options.
  3. Choose a different setup (A or C or D (or whatever you've labeled them)) and see the data update to give you stats for that setup.

You can then try the same with the 'Tags' data box also. Use the cell showing "Calm" highlighted bright green.

6) Daily Trading Journal Template Use

Enter all your trades every day. Enter them after each trade, if time allows.

You can even fill in your Notes section for each trade as you go through the session. Either way, your journaling practice will be much more effective when you do it as soon as possible after trading.

Try never to wait until the end of the week or end of the month. But if you do miss a day for whatever reason, just get back on track ASAP. 

7) Analysis without paralysis

Analysis without paralysis.

screenshot of excel showing how to find the tables and pie charts for the trading journal template

Once you've collected a robust data set, get into the groove of regularly visiting your journal's 'Analysis' tab. Keep an eye out for emerging patterns.

Your aim is to spot any clues that might boost your trading performance if you tweak your approach. Stumbling upon a clue doesn't necessarily require you to change anything. Instead, it's an invitation to dig deeper.

For more background on what to look for and why, see why and how to use a trading journal.

So, what constitutes enough data? As your data pile grows, so does the precision of your analysis. You'll need a minimum of 30 trades under your belt to achieve statistical significance. In simpler terms, drawing conclusions from fewer trades than this would be premature.

Similarly, you should rack up 30 trades per setup or tag before you start forming judgments about them. That being said, if you spot any dramatic patterns early on, they might prove to be consistent over time.

Keep an objective mindset and resist the temptation to rush to conclusions or impulsively alter your strategies. Treat any observations as clues to be investigated, much like in scientific research.

The process looks like this:

1. Observe
2. Ask questions
3. Formulate a hypothesis or theory
4. Carry out research and tests (back-test and forward test) to validate or refute your theory.

Related Resources

Daniel Larsen

Daniel created to help new and experienced traders level up. He began trading in 2002, and has spent over a decade trading professionally, for prop firms and clients. When he's not at a computer, you can find him on the ocean, in a canyon, or in the mountains.