How to Sign A Document Electronically

Back in the 90s and early 2000s, most documents were signed by handwritten signatures. But now that we live in the digital era, where everything is driven by technological advances, even signing documents has gone digital. For instance, when signing PDF documents, all that is needed is an electronic signature.

Electronic signatures make signing a document less hassle and take less time. So instead of the typical process, which involves printing, signing, scanning, and emailing back the document to your boss or colleague, all you have to do now is to affix your digital signature and email the online documents back to the requesting party. 

In this article, we’ll show you how to digitally sign any PDF document and create a standard PDF file that anybody can access. You can do it on any platform you prefer: Windows, iPad, Mac, iPhone, Chrome OS, Linux, or Android. 

What Are Electronic Signatures?

Electronic signatures, commonly known as e-signatures, are symbols or other digital data attached to electronic documents and are accepted by the “signer” or recipient of those signatures. Usually, e-signature images appear as images of physical signatures. 

An electronic signature is a legally enforceable way to sign off on electronic documents. It is efficient, secure, and verifiable; hence it can replace a handwritten signature in virtually any process. So rather than signing with a pen, you can conveniently sign via email as the entire signing process is done online.

In what ways is an electronic signature helpful?

Moving to a digital signing workflow will increase operational efficiency and make business easier for your customers. An electronic signature needs to do more than just let customers, employees, and business partners sign documents electronically from anywhere, at any time.

With electronic signing, you can save time, reduce the need for paper-based processes, and sign a Microsoft word document, for instance, from anywhere on any device. Here are some other ways an electronic signature proves to be helpful:

It is widely accepted in many industries and countries.

Without digital signatures, people will have difficulty letting a person sign important word documents, especially if that person is overseas. With an electronic signature, no matter where your clients are located, they can opt to sign documents from their phones or tablets, thanks to e-signature. 

It is valid, safe, and secure.

With automatic independent verification and security controls, you can be sure your documents will reach the right people. The Knowledge Based Authentication (KBA) process keeps your clients’ records secure by requiring independent verification for certain IRS forms like the 8878 and 8879. 

It removes handwritten signatures.

You can integrate your e-signature solution with other tools, like SmartVault, and eliminate the need to print, scan, or meet face-to-face. You will be notified when all parties have signed the document, and SmartVault will place it back in the exact location.

 These are some types of documents you can sign electronically:

  • internal compliance
  • new hire documentation
  • NDAs letters of intent
  • expense reporting
  • sales contracts
  • purchase orders
  • vendor agreements
  • invoice processing

What is the difference between a digital signature and an electronic signature?

In some sense, electronic and digital signatures are not precisely the same, although the terms are often used interchangeably.

Using a digital signature protects your private signing key from unauthorized use and enables you to verify that you have seen the document and authorized its use. Despite its security, it’s also quite complicated.

An electronic signature, however, consists of an image of your signature overlaid on top of PDF documents. It can be done using several apps, and you’ll often be asked to do it when people send you documents to sign. People who receive a PDF document with a digital signature usually don’t know what to do with it. It is an enormous technological leap for many businesses to accept signed documents via email instead of faxing them.

Indeed, yes – electronic signatures are recognized in all U.S states and are granted the same legal validity as a written signature and paper documents. Whether for business or personal transactions, e-signatures are considered legal, trusted, and lawfully binding. 

Examples of legal documents where an electronic signature can be used include:

  • Vendor/Supplier agreements
  • Real Estate Contracts
  • Liability Waivers
  • Sales Contracts
  • Financial Documents
  • Permission Slips
  • Offer Letters
  • Rental/Lease Agreements
  • Parental Consent
  • Non-disclosure Agreements


Five Best E-Signature Software Providers

1. DocuSign Signature

DocuSign can handle electronic notarizations and signatures, and contract lifecycle management workflows among the leading companies in this space. As part of the software, you can incorporate payments within contracts and capture consent with a click. Incorporating its software into DocuSign Agreement Cloud expands the benefits to other process stages, such as the preparation and management of agreements post-signature.

Moreover, the system supports mobile apps, custom fields, reusable templates, multiple-user routing, privacy and data residency policies, and audit trails. 

How do you electronically sign a document or a PDF with DocuSign eSignature?

  1. Login to your free trial account for DocuSign eSignature.
  2. Click on New > Sign a Document and then upload the electronic or pdf document.
  3. Click Sign and then follow the steps to sign documents.

2. HelloSign

hellosign logo

Since Dropbox acquired HelloSign in early 2019, the company now provides Dropbox users with e-signature options. Its product suite includes e-signatures, API integration, mobile forms (HelloWorks), and online faxing (HelloFax). It offers unlimited signature requests, templates, a mobile app, audit trails, email support, and multiple language options (22 languages supported).

Signatures can be typed, drawn, or uploaded, and unsigned documents can be automatically reminded in an email notification. With drag-and-drop signature blocks, checkboxes, and date fields, you can enhance the signer fields in documents.

How to use HelloSign?

  1. Upload the document to the website.
  2. Make yourself the only signer and place the field where you want to sign.
  3. Please save the file to your device or share it with others.

3. Adobe Acrobat Sign

adobe acrobat sign logo

Through its Acrobat Sign offering, Adobe provides the ability to collect e-signatures via the portable document format (PDF). The software allows users to sign Acrobat PDF documents from any device, including mobile devices and desktop computers. Users can also scan and upload a PDF file using Adobe Scan’s free mobile app without downloading software or creating an account.

You can track and manage documents from Acrobat, Microsoft Word, and other applications and see each document in real-time. You can receive notifications when documents are signed, and you can create reusable templates for frequently used forms.

How do you add a signature line and sign a Word or PDF document using Adobe Acrobat Sign?

  1. Open the PDF document or form that you want to sign.
  2. Select Sign from the Toolbar. You can also select Fill & Sign from the right pane or Tools > Fill & Sign.
  3. Type your text in the blue box.
  4. Select your signature or initials from the Toolbar by clicking the Sign icon.
  5. Use the arrow keys to move the placed signature or initial. You can resize or delete fields using the tools in the field toolbar.

4. EverSign

eversign logo

In EverSign, you can digitally sign through drawing, typing, uploading, or system-generated signatures. You can safely store a signed document using EverSign and set auto-expiration options. Users can upload existing PDF files and make them ready for signature through an online editor, and audit trails can record the signing process.

Sign documents such as non-disclosure agreements and waivers directly from a PC or mobile device via in-person signing. 

There are two modes to sign a document using EverSign: Parallel & Sequential Signing and the Type, Draw or Upload your Signature.


Parallel & Sequential Signing

  1. Add and save contacts as signers or recipients (CCs).
  2. Decide whether these signers should act sequentially (Sequential Signing) or simultaneously (Parallel Signing).
  3. Sequential signing only occurs after the previous party has finished the document.

Type, Draw, or Upload your Signature

Eversign offers three ways for creating signatures and initials. These are:

  1. Type your name and choose a font from a list.
  2. Draw a signature through a finger or mouse.
  3. Upload your existing signature in PNG format.

5. PandaDoc

PandaDoc is an all-in-one document workflow tool enabling users to create, collaborate, and electronically sign documents. A built-in editor allows you to create various documents, such as proposals, quotes, forms, and contracts. Additionally, the system provides pre-approved contracts and clauses for legal documents and integrates with major CRM and productivity suites.

How do you sign electronic documents with PandaDoc eSignature?

1. Sign up to PandaDoc and select “New Document.”

2. Upload the file you wish to sign by clicking the Upload tab. 

3. Drag-and-drop the Signature field into the correct place on the document using the Toolbar on the right.

4. Click the signature box and select yourself as the recipient (you may need to enter your details as a new contact if your details are not already in the database).

5. Then click the signature field again to create your signature by either drawing it by hand, uploading an image, or typing it manually.

6. Select Complete icon and download it in your preferred format or 

7. After you click the Complete button, you can download the file in the format you prefer or directly send it to the original sender.

Key Takeaways

In most cases, electronic signature software is necessary to sign documents online—unless you’re satisfied with the basic functionality offered by apps like Google Docs. Using this software, you can sign practically any document through your app of choice across your iPhone, iPad, and Safari on Mac, while ensuring the security of your contracts, proposals, and quotes.


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