Need an electronic signature? These are the best electronic signature softwares in 2022

* The prices shown are ‘from‘ prices.

DocuSign

Market leader

AES & QES

Contractmanagement en e-signing

350+ integrations

User friendly

30-days free trial

€ 9

per user / per month

Pandadoc

All-in-one solution

For document workflow

Free plan available

UETA & ESIGN Act compliant

Multiple integrations

14-days free trial

Free / per user, per month

signnow logo

signNow

Document management & e-sign

Enterprise-grade security

For SMBs and enterprises

Multiple integrations

7-days free trial

$ 8 / per user, per month

hellosign logo

Hellosign

A Dropbox Company

Mobile app

e-Sign software

30-days free trial

$ 0 / per user, per month

signaturely logo

Signaturely

Electronic signature software

Free plan available

4 integrations

Sign PDF, PNG and JPG files.

1 paid license = one tree planted

$ 0 / per month, per user

signwell logo

Signwell

eSigning & document management

Integrations through Zappier

eIDAS, ESIGN & UETVery simple

Customizable

A compliant

Free plan available

$0 / per month, per user

adobe acrobat sign logo

Adobe Acrobat Sign

Part of Adobe

Integrates with Microsoft apps

Good for small businesses

7-days free trial

$ 12.99 / per month, per user

signeasy logo

Signeasy

E-sign & manage docs

For individuals and businesses

Award-winning support team

Compliant with SOC2 and HIPAA

15 integrations

14-days free trial

$ 8 / per month, per user

Onespan logo

Onespan

Digital identity & anti-fraud solutions

SES, AES & QES

Identity verification options

Comprehensive audit trails

White-label option

Only 1 plan

$ 20 / per month, per user

rightsignature logo

RightSignature

Part of Citrix

Free trial available

256-bit EV SSL encryption

Data stored in Amazon S3 data centers

$ 12 / per month, per user

The Electronic and Digital Signature; What Does It Mean?

Within an organization, you generally have to deal with various contracts and documents that need to be signed. However, those who have to sign are often not at the same location. As a result, it can take several days before you receive a signed document or contract back and you’d rather not wait for that. So this workflow is not very efficient. Therefore, it is not very surprising that we are increasingly shifting from the ‘wet’ signature to the electronic and digital signature.

When a signature is required, but it is not signed with a pen on paper, we speak of an electronic signature. DocuSign defines electronic signature as a collective term for various methods of signing documents. Like a wet signature, with an electronic signature, the intention of the signer is recorded and the signer is bound by the terms of the signed document.

Please note that the term “electronic signature” does not guarantee that the signer of a document has been validated. For example, an image of a handwritten signature also counts as an electronic signature. However, the reliability level of this form is low. Therefore, a secure option is better recommended when you are in a highly regulated sector that deals with personal and/or private information. The digital signature offers the solution for this.

Why Choose an Electronic Signature? 

With electronic and digital signing, the disadvantages of printing, faxing, mailing, copying, scanning and archiving documents in paper form, among others, are eliminated. At the same time, digital signing makes the complete digitalisation of business processes possible, a lot of time is saved and the efficiency within an organization will increase. In addition, operational costs and the carbon footprint will be reduced. Reasons enough to switch to the digital signature.

Digital Signature v.s Electronic Signature 

Although the terms ‘electronic signature’ and ‘digital signature’ are often used interchangeably, the two are not the same. Where the electronic signature is seen more as a collective name and has a lower reliability level, a digital signature is a form of electronic signature with an often higher reliability level.

A digital signature uses a specific technical implementation that ensures that the identity of the signer is linked to the document that is signed. A third party, such as a trusted certificate authority, is responsible for verifying the identity of the signer and links the identity to a PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) based (digital) certificate. This means it comes with encryption standards.

Because a document is digitally signed with the private key of the signer, the content of the document and the identity of the signer are bound together. A digital signature ensures that the signed document is authentic, the signature comes from a verified source and that the document has not been tampered with since it was signed.

Requirements of an Electronic and Digital Signature according to eIDAS

Although the use of an electronic signature is also approved in many cases, various regulations and states require the (PKI-based) digital signature over the electronic signature. This is because the digital signature offers authenticity and integrity that can stand up in a possible court case while in some countries and states an electronic signature won’t.

In Europe, the use of digital signatures is regulated in the European eIDAS Regulation of 2014. As a rule, there are three types of digital signatures accepted by the eIDAS. These three levels are categorized from least to most stringent. The requirements of each level build upon the requirements of the level below it.

Simple Electronic Signatures (SES)

The SES is the simplest form of an electronic signature. eIDAS, artikel 3, defines it as “data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign;”. This form does not necessarily require strict authentication of the signatory.

Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES)

For valuable documents, it is recommended to use at least the advanced electronic signature. For this signature, it is required to complete additional verification steps. The advanced electronic signature must be uniquely linked to the identification of the signer, must be created in such a way that the signer can maintain control and all signed data must be non-forgeable. With a digital certificate issued by the CA these conditions are met.

Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES)

Qualified electronic signatures go one step further. These signatures are labeled as most reliable and secure. It is therefore recommended to use this type of signature when it comes to legally regulated documents. The degree of reliability of this type of signature is so great that a QES has the same legal status as the ‘wet’ signature that is made under the supervision of a notary.

The eIDAS requires that a certificate-based digital ID is issued for the qualified electronic signature. This certificate must be issued by a qualified ”EU Trust Service Provider”. These lists can be consulted via the Trusted List Browser. Requirement number two is that the qualified electronic signature must be created with a qualified means for the creation of electronic signatures. Such as an USB token or smart card.

Requirements of an Electronic Signature according to  UETA and ESIGN Act

The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) is a law in the US that was first enacted in 1999 and gives legal validity to electronic contracts and signatures. The law is set up to remove barriers to electronic commerce by validating and enforcing electronic data and signatures. In order to achieve this, the UETA offers states a framework for determining the legality of an electronic signature and electronic document.

UETA defines the electronic signature as ‘’means an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record’’. 

The UETA and ESIGN sets some requirements for an electronic signature:

    1. Intent to sign: electronic signatures are only valid if each signer declares his intention;
    2. Consent: all parties involved must agree to do business electronically;
    3. Association of signature with record: an audit trail should clearly show the history of the signing process and signatures must be associated with specific documents;
    4. Record retention: electronic records are valid when they accurately reflect the agreement and can be reproduced when necessary.

 

Shortly after the adoption of the UETA, then-President Bill Clinton signed the federal ESIGN Act in 2000. This law goes hand in hand with the UETA. Like the UETA, ESIGN provides similar guidelines for electronic signatures and electronic records. However, a big difference is that the ESIGN act is a federal act while the UETA is adopted on a state-by-state basis.

The UETA and the ESIGN Act only cover commercial transactions and thus do not cover transactions that are not related to business, commercial or governmental affairs.