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How to Electronically Sign a PDF Document?

In today's fast-paced digital world, efficiency is key, especially when it comes to document signing. Gone are the days of printing, signing, and scanning documents. This is where SignNow, a leading electronic signature solution, steps in to streamline the process. Let’s dive into the world of electronic signatures and discover how SignNow simplifies this essential task.

What is an Electronic Signature?

An electronic signature, commonly referred to as an e-signature, is a digital form of a signature used to demonstrate consent or approval on electronic documents or forms. Unlike traditional signatures, an e-signature is not necessarily a handwritten mark, but rather an electronic process or symbol attached to a document. It could be as simple as a typed name, an image of a handwritten signature, or a unique process involving digital encryption.

Legal Recognition and Equivalence to Handwritten Signatures

The primary aspect of an electronic signature is its legal standing. In many jurisdictions around the world, e-signatures are considered just as legally binding as traditional handwritten signatures. The key here is compliance with specific laws and regulations governing electronic signatures in the respective region.

For example:

  1. U.S. Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN): In the United States, the ESIGN Act, enacted in 2000, provides a legal framework for recognizing e-signatures. According to this act, an electronic signature is defined as an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record. The ESIGN Act ensures that electronic signatures and records hold the same validity and legal effect as traditional paper documents and handwritten signatures.

  2. European Union’s Electronic Identification and Trust Services (eIDAS): Similarly, in the European Union, the eIDAS regulation, effective from July 2016, establishes a clear framework for electronic identification and trust services, including electronic signatures. It distinguishes between electronic signatures, advanced electronic signatures, and qualified electronic signatures, each with different levels of security and verification requirements. The regulation ensures that electronic signatures cannot be denied legal effect and admissibility as evidence in legal proceedings solely on the grounds that it is in an electronic form.

Requirements for Legal Validity

For an electronic signature to be legally binding, certain criteria must be met:

  1. Intent to Sign: Just like traditional signatures, electronic signatures are valid only if each party intended to sign.

  2. Consent to Do Business Electronically: All parties involved must agree to conduct the transaction electronically. This consent is often established through a clear statement or agreement.

  3. Association with the Document: The e-signature must be clearly attached to or associated with the document being signed. This means that any change to the document or the signature can be detected and traced.

  4. Record Retention: Electronic documents signed with e-signatures must be retained and reproducible for reference by any party entitled to access them.

The Purpose and Benefits of Electronic Signatures

The primary purpose of electronic signatures is to facilitate the process of signing documents in a digital environment. In an era where businesses and individuals are increasingly operating remotely and globally, electronic signatures provide a means to execute contracts, agreements, and official documents without the need for physical presence or paper-based processes.

Key Purposes Include:

  1. Facilitating Remote Transactions: Electronic signatures enable parties in different locations to sign documents without the need for physical meetings or postal services.

  2. Streamlining Business Operations: They help businesses automate and speed up document workflows, such as contract approvals, employee onboarding, and sales agreements.

  3. Ensuring Compliance: Electronic signatures provide a way to comply with legal requirements in a digital format, maintaining the authenticity and integrity of the signed document.

Benefits of Electronic Signatures

1. Flexibility

  • Device and Location Independence: Electronic signatures can be created and verified on various devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and computers, from any location.

  • Adaptability to Various Formats: They can be applied to a wide range of document formats including PDFs, Word documents, and others.

2. Security

  • Authentication and Encryption: Many electronic signature solutions, like SignNow, offer robust security measures including encryption and secure authentication processes, ensuring that the identities of the signatories are verified and the documents remain tamper-proof.

  • Audit Trails: They often come with audit trails, which record the signing process details such as the signer’s IP address, time of signing, and the sequence of events, adding an extra layer of security and traceability.

3. Speed

  • Instantaneous Process: Signing documents electronically significantly reduces the time taken to complete agreements. What used to take days or weeks can now be accomplished in a matter of minutes.

  • Efficient Workflow Management: Integration with other business tools and services streamlines workflows, allowing for quicker turnaround times in processes requiring signatures.

4. Cost and Time Savings

  • Reduction in Paper-Related Costs: By eliminating the need for paper, printing, and postal services, electronic signatures save costs significantly.

  • Decrease in Administrative Burden: They reduce the administrative overhead of handling, storing, and retrieving physical documents.

5. Environmental Impact

  • Reduction in Paper Usage: Electronic signatures contribute to environmental conservation efforts by reducing the reliance on paper, which in turn decreases deforestation and waste.

6. Enhanced User Experience

  • Ease of Use: Platforms like SignNow offer user-friendly interfaces that make the signing process simple and intuitive.

  • Customer Satisfaction: Faster turnaround times and the convenience of signing documents electronically enhance overall customer experience.


Types of Electronic Signatures

Let's delve deep into the types of electronic signatures, focusing on Simple Electronic Signatures (SES), Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES), and Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES). Each type offers different levels of security and verification processes, catering to a range of needs from basic acknowledgments to highly secure transactions.

1. Simple Electronic Signatures (SES)

Definition and Use:

  • Basic Form: A Simple Electronic Signature is the most basic type of e-signature. It can be as straightforward as a typed name at the end of an email, an electronic image of a handwritten signature, or a click on an “I accept” button on a website.

  • Purpose: SES is commonly used for less formal or lower-risk agreements. It's suitable for internal documents, routine business transactions, or any situation where the legality of the signature is less likely to be challenged.


  • Ease of Use: SES is known for its simplicity and ease of implementation.

  • Lower Security: While practical, it offers the lowest level of security as it lacks unique identification features of the signer.

2. Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES)

Definition and Use:

  • Enhanced Security: AES is a more secure type of electronic signature. It is uniquely linked to the signatory and capable of identifying them.

  • Purpose: AES is used when a higher level of security and signer authentication is required. It’s common in legal agreements, corporate transactions, and situations where the identity of the signer needs clear verification.


  • Unique to Signer: An AES must be uniquely linked to the person using it.

  • Verification Capability: It must be capable of identifying the signatory.

  • Security Features: AES is designed to be tamper-evident. Any subsequent changes to the document or signature are detectable.

  • Independent Creation: The signature is created using means that the signer can maintain under their sole control.

3. Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES)

Definition and Use:

  • Highest Security Level: QES is the most secure type of electronic signature and is regarded as equivalent to a handwritten signature.

  • Purpose: It’s used for the most critical and high-risk transactions, such as legal contracts, government documents, and large financial transactions.


  • Certificate-Based: QES requires a digital certificate, usually issued by a trusted third-party known as a Certificate Authority (CA).

  • Legal Equivalence: In many legal systems, a QES has the same legal effect as a handwritten signature.

  • Strict Verification Process: The process for creating a QES is more stringent than for other types of e-signatures, including strict identity verification.


SignNow's Catering to Different Signature Types

  • Versatility: SignNow offers solutions catering to various signature types. It provides options for SES for everyday transactions and AES for more sensitive documents.

  • Customization and Security: SignNow’s platform allows users to choose the level of security and authentication they require, making it a versatile tool for businesses and individuals.

  • Compliance and Trust: By supporting different types of electronic signatures, SignNow ensures compliance with various legal requirements and builds trust among users who need varying levels of security in their digital transactions.

How to Create an Electronic Signature

Creating an electronic signature is straightforward. With SignNow, you can generate a

Step-by-Step Process:

1.    Registration and Login: First, you need to create an account with SignNow or log in if you already have one.

2.    Accessing the Signature Feature:

Once logged in, you will have access to the signature creation tool. This is typically found in the dashboard or toolbar within the SignNow platform.

3.    Options for Creating a Signature:

  • Typing Your Name: You can simply type your name into a text box. SignNow will convert this typed name into a stylized signature format.

  • Drawing Your Signature: If you prefer a more personalized signature, you can use a mouse or a touchscreen to draw your signature. This option is particularly useful for those who want their electronic signature to closely resemble their handwritten signature.

  • Uploading an Image: If you have a scanned image of your handwritten signature, you can upload this image to be used as your electronic signature.

4.    Saving the Signature:

  • After creating your signature, you can save it to your SignNow account. This allows you to easily and quickly apply this signature to future documents.

5.    Applying the Signature to Documents:

  • You can apply your saved signature to any document by opening the document within SignNow and selecting your signature. You’ll be able to place it in the required signature fields.

Customization and Flexibility:

  • SignNow allows for customization of the signature's size and position on the document, ensuring that it fits appropriately in the designated signature fields.


What Makes SignNow Safe and Secure?

Security Features:

1.    Encryption:

SignNow employs advanced encryption technologies to protect documents and signatures. This encryption ensures that the data remains secure during transmission and storage.

2.    Secure Server Infrastructure:

The platform is hosted on secure servers that are regularly monitored and updated to prevent unauthorized access and data breaches.

3.    Authentication Measures:

SignNow implements robust authentication measures to verify the identities of users. This may include multi-factor authentication, ensuring that only authorized individuals can access and sign documents.

Compliance with E-Signature Laws:

1.    Adherence to Legal Standards:

SignNow complies with major e-signature laws like the U.S. ESIGN Act and the European Union’s eIDAS. This compliance ensures that signatures created and managed through SignNow are legally valid and enforceable in various jurisdictions.

2.    Audit Trails:

The platform maintains detailed audit trails for each document. These trails record who signed the document, when they signed it, and the IP address from which the signature was made, adding an extra layer of legal protection and traceability.

3.    Global Acceptance:

SignNow’s adherence to international e-signature standards ensures its acceptability in various business and legal environments worldwide.

Embracing the digital revolution in document signing with solutions like SignNow not only saves time but also enhances document security. SignNow stands out for its ease of use, security features, and ability to adapt to different business needs. Start your journey towards efficient document management with SignNow today!

FAQs about Electronic Signature

Here are some detailed FAQs about electronic signatures that cover various aspects from their basic definition to their legal implications and usage:

1. What is an Electronic Signature?

A: An electronic signature, often referred to as an e-signature, is a digital method that indicates acceptance or approval of the contents within a digital document or form. It can range from a simple typed name to a more complex digital fingerprint, depending on the technology used.

2. Are Electronic Signatures Legally Binding?

A: Yes, electronic signatures are legally binding in most countries around the world, including the United States (under the ESIGN Act), the European Union (under eIDAS), and many others. They hold the same legal weight as traditional handwritten signatures as long as they adhere to the laws of the respective jurisdiction.

3. How Secure are Electronic Signatures?

A: The security of an electronic signature depends on the technology used. Most e-signature solutions use advanced encryption and authentication methods to ensure the integrity and security of the signatures. This can include password protection, two-factor authentication, and digital certificates.

4. Can Electronic Signatures be Used for All Types of Documents?

A: While electronic signatures are versatile, their appropriateness depends on the regulations governing specific document types. They are widely used for contracts, agreements, internal approvals, and other standard business documents. However, certain legal documents like wills, court orders, or certain types of real estate documents may require a traditional signature, depending on local laws.

5. What is the Difference Between an Electronic Signature and a Digital Signature?

A: An electronic signature is a broad term that encompasses any electronic process that indicates acceptance of an agreement or a record. A digital signature, however, is a specific type of e-signature that uses cryptographic techniques to provide a higher level of security, verifying the authenticity of a document.

6. How Do I Create an Electronic Signature?

A: You can create an electronic signature in several ways: by typing your name, using a mouse or touchpad to draw your signature, or uploading an image of your handwritten signature. Many e-signature platforms also offer the option to create a digital signature using secure digital keys.

7. What is an Advanced Electronic Signature (AES)?

A: An Advanced Electronic Signature is a type of e-signature that offers additional security features. It is uniquely linked to the signatory and capable of identifying them. AES also ensures that any subsequent changes to the document are detectable.

8. Is it Possible to Forge an Electronic Signature?

A: While forging traditional signatures is possible, forging electronic signatures, especially those that use advanced security measures like digital signatures, is significantly more challenging. These signatures often include encryption and traceable data that make forgery difficult.

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