How to sign PDF files electronically (with tips and FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 15 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The transition into a more digital world is already in full effect, with many organisations opting for digital resources over traditional printed documents. This is beneficial as it provides cost savings and improvements in sustainability by reducing paper usage. If you frequently work with digital documents, you can benefit from learning how to electronically sign them. In this article, we explain what an electronic signature is, outline how to sign PDF files, provide some tips for signing these files electronically and answer some frequently asked questions concerning this topic.

What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature is an alternative to traditional handwritten papers that are typically executed by using a pen. They're essentially an image of your signature that's embedded into a PDF file. Signing digital documents such as PDFs electronically is a straightforward process and is now a commonly used practice within businesses.

Related: Top 10 secure file sharing platforms (with pros and cons)

How to sign PDF files electronically

Below, you can find out how to sign PDF files electronically, with different methods for various devices and software:

How to use Adobe Acrobat Reader to sign PDF files electronically when using Windows

Adobe Acrobat Reader is a powerful application that includes functionality for electronic document signatures. Other software applications perform this functionality too, but this is the most commonly used platform. Here's how to do it:

  1. Open the PDF document in Adobe Acrobat Reader.

  2. In the upper right corner, click the ‘Fill & sign' button.

  3. Use one of three options to create your signature.

  4. The first option is the 'Type' function, which allows you to type out your name using the keyboard and standard fonts.

  5. The second option is the 'Draw' function, which allows you to draw your signature by using the mouse or a touch-enabled device.

  6. The third option is the 'Image' function, which involves uploading an already saved image of your signature to the document.

  7. Once you've created your signature, click on the ‘Apply' button to finalise your signature.

  8. If you want to use this signature again at some point, you can also check the ‘Save signature' box.

  9. You can adjust the placement of the signature by dragging it with the mouse and clicking the area to place it there.

  10. To save the signed PDF file, click ‘File', then ‘Save' and select the location to store the file.

Related: How to sign electronically when handling work documents

How to use Preview to sign PDF files electronically in macOS

If you're using macOS, you already have in-built tools, such as the Preview application, that can allow you to complete electronic signatures. To create an electronic signature in Preview, follow these steps:

  1. Open the PDF file in Preview.

  2. Click on the ‘Show markup toolbar' icon and select the ‘Sign' option from the new toolbar.

  3. Here, you can either create a signature with the trackpad or scan it on a signed piece of paper by using a webcam.

  4. With your signature captured in Preview, you can now select it from the menu when you click the ‘Sign' button.

  5. This places your signature onto the screen where you can drag and drop it in the most suitable location on the document.

  6. When you're finished, you can save the document by clicking ‘File' and then ‘Save'.

How to use Mail to sign PDF files electronically for iPad and iPhone

If you have an iPad or iPhone, you can also create an electronic signature by using the Mail application. If you've previously used the Preview application for macOS, you can synchronise the two applications, which allows you to use the original electronic signature you created in Preview. Using the Mail application is useful in certain situations, but you can only use it to sign documents that you're sending via email. To use the Mail application to electronically sign a PDF file, follow these steps:

  1. Receive an email that contains your PDF file and open it in the Mail app.

  2. Open the PDF file attachment in the email.

  3. Click on the toolbox icon for ‘Markup and reply', which you can find in the bottom right corner of the screen.

  4. From here, you can add your electronic signature by tapping the signature icon at the bottom right of the screen. Alternatively, you can type text or draw on the document directly.

  5. When you've finished, tap ‘Done'. The Mail application then automatically drafts a reply email with the signed document attached.

How to use Adobe Fill & Sign to sign PDF files electronically for smartphones

For other smartphone devices, you can use the Adobe Fill & Sign application to create electronic signatures on PDF files. This is a free-to-use piece of software that provides you with unlimited signatures for documents. You can also include pictures of documents for electronic signing from within this application. To use Adobe Fill & Sign for electronic signatures, follow the steps below:

  1. Download and install the Adobe Fill & Sign application.

  2. Open the application and select the PDF file you'd like to sign.

  3. Tap on the ‘Signature' button to create your electronic signature.

  4. When you're done, tap ‘Save' to finish or ‘Share' to send the signed PDF file to another application.

Related: 9 of the best note-taking apps for Windows (with examples)

Tips for signing PDF files electronically

To help you find the best solution to creating electronic signatures for your PDF files, consider the following tips:

  • Price point: Some electronic signature applications are completely free to use, but offer limitations like watermarks or limited signatures per month. When looking to sign your documents electronically, consider your needs and how much you're willing to spend.

  • Security: Additionally, ensure that the technical specifications of the electronic signature solution you use align with the security needs of the recipient. Some signatures, for instance, require additional identification or authentication, such as two-factor authentication.

  • Experience and scalability: If you intend to use this solution for large scale electronic signatures, ensure that the provider can handle the traffic. Alternatively, if you're using it infrequently this might be less of a priority.

  • Integration considerations: It's vital that the solution you choose works with your existing software and hardware. In some cases, electronic signature solutions might not work on certain platforms, operating systems or hardware.

  • Functionality: If you require electronic signatures that have certain functions, make sure that the software meets your needs. Custom branding, for example, is essential for many organisations but isn't offered by all electronic signature solutions.

Related: OneDrive vs SharePoint: differences and similarities

Frequently asked questions about electronic signatures

Below are some frequently asked questions concerning electronic signatures, alongside their respective answers:

Are electronic signatures as legally binding as traditional signatures?

As of May 2022, electronic signatures are legally binding and recognised in law. Various pieces of legislation, such as the Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions Regulations of 2016 and the Electronic Communications Act of 2000, outline this. It's also recognised by the Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions Regulations of 2019.

Is an electronic signature a safe way to sign documents?

Electronic signatures are usually very secure. To make your signatures as secure as possible, ensure that you use a verified, reputable and secure electronic signature solution. Many providers offer bank-level security and encryption to provide the necessary safeguarding and security measures required.

Are electronic signatures better than handwritten signatures?

Opting for an electronic signature over a handwritten one comes with several benefits, including:

  • Lower costs: Electronic signatures have lower costs than handwritten signatures as they don't require any additional materials, such as pen and paper.

  • Faster completion: Electronic signatures are faster to implement into a workflow than a handwritten signature. Users can complete them remotely and they're available immediately, with no requirements to physically hand over documentation.

  • Improved security: Electronic signatures, when used correctly, are very secure due to the use of powerful encryption technology. In contrast, handwritten signatures are more prone to forgery.

‍What documents can you use an electronic signature solution with?

Almost all digital documents can feature an electronic signature. The most popular software options are often integrated with hundreds of different platforms, file types and formats. This makes them an efficient and attractive solution for organisations and individuals alike.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


  • What is an electronic signature? (Plus types and benefits)

Explore more articles