Ever wonder how to connect TD Ameritrade’s Thinkorswim (TOS) desktop trading platform with your Excel spreadsheet? How about how to use the thinkorswim RTD commands to live stream data into your Excel Watch List? Even better, how about downloading my Excel Watch List to see how it works?

The whole is greater than
the sum of its parts

– Aristotle


This idiom is proven true when considering the complexity of a mechanical clock, a robot, or an airplane. It is also true when I combine TD Ameritrade’s Think or Swim trading platform with Microsoft Excel to make a kick-ass Watch List and Open Positions Monitor system.

In this week’s Journal Entry, I will walk through the steps of configuring a new laptop to run both my TD Ameritrade ThinkorSwim (TOS) desktop platform and my custom-configured Excel watchlist spreadsheet.

It is easy to have ThinkOrSwim live stream to Excel, but it is not well documented on how to do it. ThinkOrSwim (aka thinkorswim, aka ToS) takes full advantage of Microsoft’s RTD to simplify the effort.

If anyone is interested, for a small donation,
they can download a strip-down and unsupported version
of my Excel Watchlist.

New Laptop

I want a second “disposable” laptop to take with me to remote locations (such as pubs and parks) and continue to work on my trading plans. The second laptop needs to have the identical platform configuration as my office trading workstation, robust security, and low cost. It also needs to have complete data synchronization between the two computers – whatever I start on one system, I want to complete on the other.


  • Dell Inspiron 7306 2n1
  • i5 10th Gen
  • 8 GB Mem
  • 512 GB Drive
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Windows 10 Home
  • Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft OneDrive

OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage service that is free if you have Microsoft 365. It is not needed to get the most out of TOS but is necessary for my Excel watchlist. As long as I save the Excel spreadsheet in my OneDrive folder, then I can watch and edit it on both my workstations.

About Laptop Security

Being my “disposable” / “take with me anywhere” laptop, I need to be confident about security. I need to make sure I:

  • Activate the fingerprint scanner
  • Set a complicated Windows password/pin
  • Set the computer to sleep when the lid is close
  • Set the computer to require re-authentication when waking from sleep mode
  • Enable Find My Device

If my laptop turns up missing, I can log in to my Microsoft Account from any other system and lock/disable the missing device. 

TD Ameritrade ThinkorSwim (TOS)

Here is how to find, download, and install Think or Swim on my new laptop. Once installed, I will test the desktop software with my personal Ameritrade account to ensure all is right.


This post assumes that I already have a TD Ameritrade brokerage account. And that I have already worked with the good folks at Ameritrade to set my account for Options Trading and approved for Standard Margin.

Note: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that I have a dedicated Options trading account – separate from any of my buy/hold accounts. Doing so works as a firewall, so uncontrolled losses or wayward Options positions will not bleed my savings. The money deposited in the Options trading account will only be what I am willing to lose.

Installing ThinkorSwim

Installing ThinkorSwim

1. Log into my TD Ameritrade account.

2. In the “Search” box, type “thinkorswim”

3. Click the link “Get thinkorswim”

4. Scroll down the page until you see:

5. Click it…

Installing ThinkorSwim
Installing ThinkorSwim

6. Wait until the download is completed

7. Click “Open File” to start the installation

Waiting… Waiting…

Installing ThinkorSwim
Installing ThinkorSwim

8 . Select language – click “OK”

9. Click “Next >”

Installing ThinkorSwim
Installing ThinkorSwim
  1. Select your account provider (“TD Ameritrade”) then click “Next >”

11. Agree to the legal stuff, then click “Next >”

Installing ThinkorSwim
Installing ThinkorSwim

12. Make the selection you want. I selected “for all users” because I am the “ALL” for my laptop.

13. Click “Next >”

14. Click “Yes” to allow thinkorswim to be installed.

Installing ThinkorSwim
Installing ThinkorSwim

15. Take the default location to install the software. If you want to put the files somewhere else, now is the time to do it…

16. Click “Next >”

17. Some cosmetic choices. Select what you want and click “Next >”

Installing ThinkorSwim
Installing ThinkorSwim

The software installation status box zipped by way too fast for me to capture a screenshot. So don’t blink.

17. When software is completed, click “Finish”

Start Thinkorswim for the First Time

Find the “thinkorswim” icon on the desktop and double-click to start.

Starting ThinkorSwim
Starting ThinkorSwim

Whenever you start thinkorswim, it will reach out to the servers to download any updates or patches automatically. Doing so requires you to approve installing these updates

Click “Yes”

The first time you start TOS, it will download the bulk of the software. How fast this happens will depend on the speed of your Internet. This extended download is a one-time snoozer, so now is an excellent time to take a coffee break…

Starting ThinkorSwim
Starting ThinkorSwim

Moment of truth…

Enter your username and password, then click “Log in.”

Initializing your desktop…

Starting ThinkorSwim
Starting ThinkorSwim


Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel provides a function called RTD (RealTimeData). This function allows for direct communications between running applications. In this situation, Excel will use RTD functions to retrieve live data from thinkorswim.

Configure Excel to Retrieve RTD from TOS

The really cool thing about this particular configuration is – it comes ready to go right out of the box. There is no need to register COM Objects, set up libraries, or such like in the old days. I don’t need to be a nerd to make this work.

The only requirement to make this work is to have both TOS and Excel running simultaneously. (For Excel to retrieve live data from TOS, TOS needs to be running to serve.)

Configure Excel to Retrieve RTD from TOS

Retrieve RTD Live Data From TOS

I do not intend for this post to be detailed documentation on using the TOS/RTD functions, but I do what to show how to get started.

The Excel/RTD syntax for requesting data from TOS is to enter the formula,
“=RTD(“tos.rtd”,, “[COMMAND]“,”[TICKER]“)”, into an Excel cell. It’s very straightforward.

Below is an image showing some of the RTD commands I can use right away. There are hundreds of these commands offered by thinkorswim.

Export TOS to Excel

TOS/RTD Commands

There are several hundred TOS/RTD commands that I can use to create my kick-ass Watch List. But it is not clear how to find them. This section will point to some commands.

Abbreviated Table of TOS/RTD Commands

Ask=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”ASK”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Ask Size=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”ASK_SIZE”,Options Code / Ticker)
AskX=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”AX”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Back Expected Move=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”BACK_EX_MOVE”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Back Vol=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”BACK_VOL”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Beta=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”BETA”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Bid=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”BID”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Bid Ask Size=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”BA_SIZE”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Bid Size=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”BID_SIZE”,[Options Code / Ticker])
BidX=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”BX”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Call Volume Index=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”CALL_VOLUME_INDEX”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Change=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”NET_CHANGE”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Close=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”CLOSE”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Covered Return=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”COVERED_RETURN”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Delta=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”DELTA”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Description=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”DESCRIPTION”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Dividend Share=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”DIV”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Dividend YieldRTD(“tos.rtd”,,”YIELD”,[Options Code / Ticker])
EPS=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”EPS”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Expected Move Diff=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”EX_MOVE_DIFF”,[Options Code / Ticker])

Extrinsic=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”EXTRINSIC”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Front Expected Move=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”FRONT_EX_MOVE”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Front Vol=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”FRONT_VOL”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Gamma=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”GAMMA”,[Options Code / Ticker])
High=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”HIGH”,[Options Code / Ticker])
High52=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”52HIGH”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Implied Volatility=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”IMPL_VOL”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Intrinsic=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”INTRINSIC”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Last=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”LAST”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Last Size=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”LAST_SIZE”,[Options Code / Ticker])
LastX=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”LX”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Low=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”LOW”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Low52=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”52LOW”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Mark=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”MARK”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Mark Change=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”MARK_CHANGE”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Mark Change=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”MARK_CHANGE”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Market Cap=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”MARKET_CAP”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Mark Percent Change=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”MARK_PERCENT_CHANGE”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Mark Percent Change=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”MARK_PERCENT_CHANGE”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Max Covered Return=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”MAX_COVERED_RETURN”,[Options Code / Ticker])

Open=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”OPEN”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Open Interest=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”OPEN_INT”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Option Volume Index=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”OPTION_VOLUME_INDEX”,[Options Code / Ticker])
PE=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”PE”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Percent Change=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”PERCENT_CHANGE”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Probability ITM=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”PROB_OF_EXPIRING”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Probability OTM=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”PROB_OTM”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Probability Touch=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”PROB_OF_TOUCHING”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Put Call Ratio=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”PUT_CALL_RATIO”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Put Volume Index=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”PUT_VOLUME_INDEX”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Rho=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”RHO”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Shares=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”SHARES”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Strength Meter=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”STRENGTH_METER”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Theta=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”THETA”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Vega=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”VEGA”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Vol Diff=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”VOL_DIFF”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Vol Index=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”VOL_INDEX”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Volume=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”VOLUME”,[Options Code / Ticker])
Weighted Back Vol=RTD(“tos.rtd”,,”WEIGHTED_BACK_VOL”,[Options Code / Ticker])

Copy/Paste TOS Data to Excel

Another niffy way to discover what RTD command to use in my Excel spreadsheet is to export data from TOS directly into Excel.

Using Excel with ThinkorSwim
  1. Click the “Scan” tab at the top
  2. Apply a simple filter
  3. Click “Scan”
  1. At the near upper right corner of TOS, click the “Options Menu”
  2. Click “Export >”
  3. Click “To Microsoft Excel”

Export TOS to Excel
Export TOS to Excel
Export TOS to Excel
Open a blank Excel Sheet
and “Paste”

Once the scanned data from TOS is loaded in the Excel sheet, click on any cell and look at the formula used in the formula bar.

Export TOS to Excel

Where Can I Find More?

Searching both high and low inside the TOS desktop platform has not yielded any good sources for the tos.rtd commands. The closes thing I found to comprehensive documentation of tos.rtd is from www.stock-data-solutions.com.

If any finds the “definitive” documentation for tos.rtd, please leave me a note below.

Application – My Custom Watchlist & Open Positions Monitor

Great tools are useless without a great application. To get started on using ThinkorSwim/Excel, consider reviewing my posts for creating a custom watchlist and open spread positions monitor –

Watchlist for Vertical Spreads

Custom Options Watchlist using Thinkorswim in Excel – PT 1

Custom Options Watchlist using Thinkorswim in Excel – PT 2

Watchlist for Cover Calls

Cover Calls WATCHLIST Using ThinkorSwim EXCEL

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Using Excel with thinkorswim is not hard to setup.


Even though I have tried to make it clear that this blog is my journal, documenting my trek into Options Trading, it has been suggested by others that I, nevertheless, include a general disclaimer. So here goes…

“This blog and the information contained herein is not intended to be a source of advice or analysis concerning the material presented. The information and/or documents contained in the blog do not constitute investment advice.”

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If you want to comment on this post’s topic, please use the “Leave a Reply” box below so it can be attached to the post for future reference. – Thanks

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