In the era of paper, when men were men, and the Internet was still a twinkle in Tim Berner-Lee‘s eye, signing something like a letter or a contract was as simple as getting a pen and scribbling your name.
But then the Internet came along, and of course, like everything else, signing papers went online. But when you get that contract via email, what do you do? You have to print the last page, sign it, scan it, and email it back. How terribly inconvenient.
Surely MakeUseOf, there must be a better way?
There’s a chance that when you open a PDF file, you’re going to be using Adobe Reader to read it. Adobe Reader is criticized quite often, mainly for its bloat, but did you know that it enables you to very easily place a signature on the page? This is probably by far the easiest way to do it.
The two best methods are either uploading an existing scan of a signature or using a webcam. If you have a tablet (such as an iPad), you can use a stylus pen or your finger to scribble a signature in a drawing app such as Penultimate, taking a screenshot, then resizing it. If you don’t have a tablet or that method sounds like far too much work, then the next best option is to scribble the signature on a piece of white paper with a black pen, then hold it up to the webcam to be scanned.
As you hold the signature level on the blue line, Adobe Reader will convert that signature into something resembling it in the box below. When it finally gives you a version that you can live with, then click “accept” and you can use your mouse to place the signature on the dotted line.
Preview (Mac OS X)
If you have a Mac, then another option is to create and insert a signature using Preview.
Simply open the document with Preview and at the top, will be a little briefcase on the right-hand side (mousing over it will show the text “show markup toolbar”). You will then see a squiggly line in the toolbar, which is the button to do a signature.
The method should be straightforward, but in reality, it is difficult. Click “click here to begin” and then use your mouse to make a signature (the difficult part). Then when the signature is done, press any key to lock it in place and it will be saved.
When you start, your pen begins to the right of the box, when really it should start on the left hand side (more space). After repeated tries, all I really ended up with was a huge squiggle of a mess. If you want a proper signature, then it would be best to use the Camera option and hold up a piece of paper with the signature on it (just like Adobe Reader).
If you stick to the maximum 3 documents a month, and one user, then HelloSign is free of charge. Anything more than that, and you are looking at paid plans starting at $13 a month. HelloSign integrates with Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Evernote, and OneDrive to upload your documents more easily for signature. It also integrates with Gmail.
You can either draw the signature in (see my pathetic attempt above), type it in, or upload an image. You can also insert initials, the date, checkmarks, and text. I really like this one, and it is highly recommended if you are looking for a web-based solution.
PDF Signer (Mac OS X)
This is a highly rated app for the Mac, but at $9.99, it may put a lot of people off. However, if you don’t like the awkward Preview option, and you prefer another Mac app possibility, then maybe that $10 would be a worthwhile investment. It all depends on how many signatures you are planning to do.
The Mac App Store currently has it at 336 ratings with almost 5 stars. You can’t argue with that. Plus it has been updated for Yosemite, showing that the developer is committed to its development.
Other than RightSignature (profiled below), there are two other options for signing documents on a mobile phone.
DocuSign (iPhone, Android & Windows Phone)
Pricing for DocuSign starts at €7.50 (approximately $10) per month. The beauty of a mobile app is that you can use your finger, or a stylus pen, to make a pretty good looking signature, and DocuSign even lets you choose the ink color (black, blue, or red).
Documents can be imported from the usual cloud services (Dropbox, OneDrive and so on) and you can also get a push notification when a document is waiting to be signed.
This service was formerly known as SignNow (in case you were wondering) and now promotes itself as being the cheapest option of the many web-based signing services. At $1 per user, per month, it is hard to argue with that assertion. As a fun aside, this app was used by Deron Williams to sign his $98 million NBA contract (if that makes a difference to you).
CudaSign takes documents imported from your email, Dropbox, and even your camera, which is a new one on me. Sign with your finger, then either email it straight off, or save it in a secure CudaSign account.
I am making a separate little section here, because there are other options, but I am hesitant about endorsing them due to the price. However, they remain valid options, so in the interests of completeness, here they are.
True to form, Adobe’s pricing could really do with a thorough review, but the name recognition alone may be enough for people to go with EchoSign. Pricing is dependent on standard versus pro subscriptions, and whether you pay monthly. It starts at $12.99 a month, and goes through the roof from there.
This option starts at $11 a month (after a 5 document free trial), and was recommended by a colleague. As well as uploading a PDF or a Word document, you can also import documents from online services such as Dropbox, FreshBooks, and SalesForce.
You can use the mouse to draw a squiggle, or on the iPhone app, use your finger to make a signature. The iPad “in-person” app enables you to collect signatures by getting the person to use their finger on the screen.
A Final Word
Lots of options exist out there for electronically signing your documents, but you shouldn’t immediately gravitate to a big name like Adobe to get the job done. As we have seen here, free options exist which do just as good a job (if not better). And if you must have a mobile option, then it can be as cheap as $1 a month.
But unless you are Donald Trump or Richard Branson, is a contract signature that urgent that it can’t wait until you are at a proper computer, where you can use one of the free options? Paid mobile options is only really worth it if you sign a lot of time-sensitive documents.
Are you still a print-sign-scan-email kind of person, or have you hopped on the online signature bandwagon?
Image Credits: signing contract Via Shutterstock