How to Digitally Sign a PDF? An Overview of Best Practices and Tools

Thu. 16 Jun. 202221233

At this juncture in history, it seems that the digital revolution can no longer be ignored. Businesses now use more digital tools than ever before. Moreover, it doesn’t seem like that trend will be slowing down anytime soon. People are more reliant now on digital files for many things. More particularly, we’re now starting to use digital documents more than ever. 

Companies, lawyers, accountants, and all kinds of professionals are now starting to use digital versions of contracts, agreements, invoicing documents, and others. As that happens, PDF files of these kinds of documents become more commonly used. That’s because we can use and share these documents freely without the fear of anything in the content of the document getting altered without the approval of all parties. Moreover, they can also be file protected.

Digital signature vs. electronic signature 


Image Source:Pexels

But an important question we need to answer about having these digital copies of documents is are they safe for the companies and individuals involved? The e-signature sector of document management tech has grown rapidly over the years. It’s foreseen that e-signature tools will become a $12.72 billion industry by 2030.

We now use all types of document management software to store and share documents online, but more than ever, we need to start thinking about cyber security. Hackers can easily steal information and forge it. That’s why companies should start employing best practices when getting documents finalized and signed. 

When learning how to sign a PDF, there are two general ways to do so: First is through digital signatures, and second via electronic signatures. While most people easily interchange these two, they aren’t one and the same. Let’s look at each one specifically and how they differ from each other.

Digital Signatures — Getting a document signed this way makes use of cryptography to protect the contents. They use public key infrastructure, meaning there are more layers of protection. Think of a digital signature as a fingerprint. More than just visually validating a signature, one can use a system run by trusted companies and authorities so you have a way of verifying whether the signature is real or not.

Electronic Signatures — Electronic signatures are like digital signatures in that they are soft copies of a real mark. But the main difference is that an electronic signature is merely a copy of a signature that can be added to a document. The most common way people do this is to scan a signature, convert it into a jpeg and attach it to any document. This is quite convenient, but it can also be a cause of concern security-wise as anyone can just get a copy of that JPEG and put it on any document.

How to digitally sign a PDF


Image Source:Pexels

If you’re convinced that learning how to digitally sign a PDF is the best route for you, you’ll be happy to know that you have all kinds of options and ways to do so. Let’s discuss some of the most common ways to do that.

Using PDF Document Signing Tool

Using a PDF document signing tool is one of the easiest and most available options. There are a lot of software options you can use for this approach. The beauty of using a PDF document signing tool is that signatories can easily sign a PDF directly without having to go through many steps. Signing a digital document this way will simply require that you click a link to an uploaded document, find the areas you’re supposed to sign, and scribble your signature on the document where required. 

One of the more commonly used PDF document signing tools is SignFlow, a software that provides eSignature workflows on top of a document automation tool to help make getting documents signed digitally more convenient. If you can’t seem to get the steady hand necessary to get your signature right, you can also upload an image version through the document signing tool (and not directly on the document) or type up your initials. The latter option might be a use case you should reserve for non-urgent, non-important document matters.

Using Adobe Acrobat Reader

Using Adobe Acrobat Reader to digitally sign a PDF document is another popular way to get documents marked off as complete. This approach can be done on both a PC and a Mac. Adobe Acrobat Reader is a tool provided by the software giant, Adobe, and is available for free download online. 

Here’s how to sign a PDF on Adobe Acrobat Reader. Open a PDF document on the program. Then, you’ll need to click on the sign icon on the upper toolbar. You can then choose "fill and sign" if you’re signing the document yourself. If you need someone else to sign it, then select request signatures then enter the email addresses of the people who need to sign the document.

Using Preview on Mac

If you’re using a Macbook or any other Mac desktop, you will automatically have the Preview program on your computer. You can also have a way to enter digital signatures. This is one of the easiest options if you want to learn how to digitally sign a PDF on Mac. 

To do this, you just have to open your PDF on Preview and click on “Markup” in the upper right corner. That will be the circle icon with a pen. There, you should have an option to create a signature. Click on create a signature and draw your signature with a touchpad or mouse. Don’t worry if you have to do it a few times to get the right one. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have saved that signature on your computer to use anytime again in the future. 

Using Phone

But what if you’re on the move and don’t have access to your computer. Well, thankfully, there are now mobile apps that allow you to sign documents on the go. One tool you can use to do this is called PDF Reader Pro, which has both an Android and an iOS version.

Using eSignature Tools

The last way to sign documents digitally is to use eSignature tools. This is another easy-to-use process that also gives you access to other benefits, such as a library of templates, embedded emails, names, addresses, and other information, and encrypted access so you’re ensured more data protection and privacy. The only downside to using eSignature tools is that some of them might give limited storage. Offerings vary from vendor to vendor, so do your research before landing on which tool you’d like to use.


With all the ways that you can sign a document digitally, it’s easy to say that going down this route in your business is a great idea. After all, it saves time and effort too, given that 65% of companies who use manual processes spend one entire additional day to get documents signed compared to their counterparts who use digital systems. 

So if you haven’t made the move to digital signature workflows yet, start considering what your company needs to do to go down that route. Look at the possible viable options and make the transition. Digital innovation isn’t going to go away anytime soon, and it will do your business a lot of good to start adopting these changes as soon as you can.

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