5 ways to electronically sign your documents and ditch that scanner

In an age when most of our documents, driving directions, and Groupons can be pulled up on our smartphones, many of us no longer own printers or scanners. Frankly, we don’t miss these space-sucking products – that is, until we receive an email asking us to return a document with our signature. Short of visiting and paying for the services at a Kinkos, or waiting until you’re back in the office, you may think you’re out of luck. Fortunately, there are many apps you can use to electronically sign documents. Yesterday, HelloSign released its new Gmail plugin that makes affixing signatures to documents a lot faster and easier. But HelloSign is hardly your only option. Listed below are five other ways you can add electronic signatures to paperwork.

1. SignNow
Price: Free
Operating System: Any

Out of all the options listed, we’ve used SignNow the most. Simply import the file you want to sign (PDF, DOC/DOCX, and other common image files), and  either draw in your signature, or you  upload a photo or a scanned image of your handwriting (make sure you sign on white paper so you can easily edit the image into your documents). SignNow has both Web apps and mobile apps. The Web app can be used on any operating system, but it’s a bit difficult to use. Its interface isn’t responsive enough to recognize handwriting in real time, even while using a graphics tablet. That being said, once you’ve successfully signed one document, you can reuse your signature again and again. We found working with SignNow’s iOS and Android apps much easier as they don’t lag. Also, signing your signature on a touchscreen display is just easier.

SignNow has a paid version with several collaboration features, but, unless you sign a lot of paperwork with other coworkers, it’s not necessary. The free version has everything you need. 

2. PDFescape
Price: Free
Operating System: Any

Though there are many online PDF editors out there, we’re particularly fond of PDFescape. Since it’s entirely Web-based, you don’t need to download anything. In fact, you don’t even need to sign up for an account. You can sign any PDF file using the Freehand option, but you can also upload a photo or a scanned image of your signature to make things easier. You’ll probably want to upload a photo, since we found it hard to replicate our signatures on PDFescape’s interface.

3. Adobe Reader
Price: Free
Operating System: Windows or Mac OS X

Unlike the previous options mentioned wherein you can edit documents via Web interface, using Adobe Reader to sign requires you to download and install a program. Once installed, you’ll see the Sign option when you open a PDF. Clicking on the Sign option opens a pop-up window where you can draw in your signature, type your name, or insert an image of your handwritten John Hancock. 

4. DocuSign Personal
Price: Free
Operating System: Any

DocuSign is another Web-based service. You can upload your document from your hard drive or directly from your Box account and then choose from one of the cursive fonts to sign your name. Alternatively, you can draw in your signature. The Personal version of DocuSign is free, but you can upgrade anytime. Upgrading to the Professional version will cost you at least $15 per month, but it gives you the option of inviting multiple people to sign your document, sending reminders to signees, and collecting credit card or PayPal payments, among others. There’s also a DocuSign for Outlook, as well as DocuSign apps for Android and iOS. 

5. Preview on Mac
Price: Free (comes with Mac OS X)
Operating System: Mac OS X 

You don’t even need a third-party application if you have a Mac –  all you need is the included Preview app. To add your signature, launch the Preview app, go to Preferences, and click on Signatures. Choose Create a Signature, and another window will pop up with a pane showing you what your computer’s webcam can see. Sign your name on white paper and hold it up near the webcam. Preview will recognize your handwriting and upon clicking Accept, it will save that image as your electronic signature. The next time you need to sign a document, just click the pencil icon on top of Preview and choose the Signature icon from the pop-up menu bar. 

These are but a handful of ways to electronically sign documents. If have preferred methods or applications other than the ones we listed, let us know in the comments!

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