How to sign a PDF and get e-signatures online

You don’t need physical paper to get a legally binding signature anymore. Streamline the contract signing process for you and your clients with electronic signatures.

What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature is pretty much what it sounds like: a digital version of your handwritten signature. When a PDF form calls for a signature, you’ll see a signature field that’s highlighted as an area that can be edited by you in order to add text and sign. You may see the terms 'digital signature' and 'electronic' signature used interchangeably, but they’re actually not the same thing. When it comes to how to digitally sign a PDF, there are two ways:

Electronic signatures

An electronic signature, in accordance with the E-Sign Act, serves as the binding equivalent of your handwritten signature, which, in turn, is your consent to the terms laid out in the document you are signing. Also known as an e-signature, it’s essentially an image of your signature placed on a digital document and it can’t be declared invalid purely on the basis that it’s not a physical signature.

Digital signatures

A digital signature is encrypted and designed to counter any likelihood of tampering. When a document is signed with a digital signature, an algorithm works to generate a 'hash'. This hash is completely unique to the document you are signing at the moment you are signing it. If the document is in any way altered or tampered with, the hash will change. If you open a document that’s been signed with a hash, your program will tell you if the content has been altered since a signature was applied. And, if it has, the integrity of the document may need to be questioned.

Are electronic and digital signatures binding?

Yes, electronic and digital signatures are binding, although this may vary from state to state and country to country. Both types of signatures are legally binding features of any document you sign.

Do I need an electronic signature or a digital signature?

This depends on your document. Digital signatures are more weighty in terms of security because you can’t witness the signee and they’re meant to be delivered notary-level security. That said, most circumstances you and your team will likely face don’t require a notary, so an electronic signature is more than sufficient.

When do I need an electronic signature?

You can use an electronic signature to sign documents such as contracts, agreements and invoices. An added benefit is that you can collate your documents to be more streamlined than ever – you’ll never have to sign each individual invoice by hand again or worry about where to store it. You may also be familiar with a touchscreen or touchpad sign tool often used as a sign-in protocol on office front desks – these also count as electronic signatures.

What programs will let me sign a PDF?

A host of Dropbox app integrations allow for electronic signing on programs including Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat. Dropbox integrations include best-in-class e-signature tools, like HelloSign, a Dropbox company, DocuSign and Adobe Sign. The best thing? So long as your device can support any of these tools, you can sign. That means whether you’re on PC, Android phone or iOS, there’s nothing stopping you getting contracts signed and finalised.

How to e-sign a PDF without an image of your signature

Don’t worry if you don’t have a digital image file of your precise signature, because it’s not needed. An electronic signature lets you add text as a means of signing or generates a 'handwritten' signature of your name. Alternatively, iPad stylus tools and PC trackpads let you put in your own handwritten signature, but these aren’t strictly necessary to create an online signature.

How to sign a PDF document with Dropbox

Dropbox integrations like HelloSign make it easy to benefit from electronic signatures within your Dropbox account. You can create a contract from draft to final stages and then send it off for a signature all within Dropbox. This means you won’t have to download any sensitive documents to your local PC to be accidentally deleted or left idling in an insecure folder. If you’re the one signing, you can also add your signature from within Dropbox: just select a PDF or Word doc you’d like to sign and select HelloSign or whichever e-signature tool you’d like to use.

Files are securely stored online, accessible remotely and use our multi-layered protection and strict encryption. From collaborating on initial proposals, sending over contract drafts and finally storing your signed PDF document, Dropbox is a one-stop-shop for your electronic signature needs.

Use electronic signatures in Dropbox to streamline work

Whether you’re waiting for an invoice to be approved or on-boarding a new employee, we’ve come to accept that printing, signing, confirming and filing documents can take days, if not weeks of your time. But it doesn’t have to be that way. When you sign your documents via HelloSign and Dropbox, you can make your workflow smoother:

  • Turnaround time 80% faster

  • Secure storage

  • Eco-friendly

  • Saves time on admin

  • Saves money on faxing and postage (especially for freelancers)

  • Can be done directly in your Dropbox workspace

While the world may still be adapting to the electronic signature, the bygone days of in-ink John Hancocks will soon be a thing of the past.

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