Sign PDF

Organizations of all sizes electronically sign PDFs for a wide variety of business processes. From complex regulated documents, like a mortgage agreement, to simple documents, like an expense report, an electronic signature applied to the PDF can create a binding, legal digital agreement.

In this article, we'll survey the most important advantages, concepts, and concerns related to electronic signatures and electronically signing a PDF.

Benefits of signing PDFs electronically

Signing a PDF electronically brings numerous advantages over the traditional paper process. As more companies accelerate their digital transformation, high-value processes are targeted for optimization with electronic signatures for an improved experience and greater efficiency.

Benefits of electronic signatures include:

  1. Transform the customer experience: Sign anywhere and anytime completely at the signer’s convenience. This creates an opportunity for completely remote processes, even for highly regulated transactions, such as issuing a mortgage.
  2. Strengthen legal and compliance position: Audit trails gather exactly what transpired during the signing ceremony. Plus, digital signatures tamper-seal the document to ensure any alterations between signers are apparent and invalidate the document.
  3. Reduce costs: Avoid the need to manually prepare, ship, and archive paper documents while also dramatically reducing document errors.
  4. Increase completions: The convenience of a digital process with a guided workflow can increase completions leading to business growth. When a business process is too complex, it leads to customer abandonment as friction leads to frustration.

Differences between e-signatures and digital signatures

The best way to sign a PDF online or Word documents is with a secure electronic signature solution utilizing digital signatures.

Though sometimes erroneously used interchangeably, electronic signatures and digital signatures are related, but distinct, concepts. An electronic signature is a digital representation of a signer’s intent to be bound by the contract or agreement being signed.

A digital signature, however, refers to encryption/decryption technology that many electronic signature solutions, including OneSpan Sign, is built upon. Alone, a digital signature does not capture consent and will not be admissible in a court of law. A digital signature instead secures the data involved with a signed document and can also be used to ensure the authenticity of the document.

In short, a user can sign a PDF file using an electronic signature, and that e-signature will leverage digital signature technology.

Benefits of signing PDFs with electronic signatures from OneSpan

  • Fill & Sign Forms Online:
    Using the OneSpan Sign mobile app, you can deploy electronic signatures in your organization within 24 hours and request signatures right away.
  • Great User Experience:
    Users can sign how they like on their preferred device. Whether tap-to-sign or a digital handwritten signature on a tablet, smart phone, or desktop computer, the flexibility of the user experience ensures high adoption and satisfaction. It can be as simple as clicking a sign button.
  • Enhanced Compliance:
    OneSpan Sign electronic signatures are built with compliance and verification in mind. Using comprehensive audit trails, one-click verification, and user authentication, your organization will be able to ensure and prove the validity of any signed PDF.
  • Process Efficiency:
    Digitize and streamline your existing paper workflows with electronic signatures. A full, end-to-end digital signing process yields a superior user experience and eliminates the risk associated with document errors, like missing information. 

Sign a PDF with e-signatures online: step by step guide

Follow the video tutorial below to learn how to sign a PDF online from your email using OneSpan Sign. See how easy it is to sign!



  1. As a signer, you will receive an email request for your signature. Click the link to access the document from your email using Chrome, Firefox, or any other web or mobile browser you prefer.
  2. Read the E-Sign Disclosures and Consent document. Click the checkbox and then the Accept button.
  3. You will be directed to the documents that require your signature. The menu on the left-hand side will indicate how many documents need to be signed.
  4. To e-sign the document, simply click on the signature box.
  5. Click the confirm button.
  6. Congratulations! You have successfully signed the document with OneSpan Sign!

Browse more video tutorials about signing PDF documents online in the OneSpan Resource Center:

E-Sign questions? we have answers

Is it safe to sign a PDF?

Yes. OneSpan Sign electronic signatures deliver document security and integrity by applying a tamper-seal after each signer has signed the document. This ensures that no one can modify document fields or signatures between signers. This is paired with a sophisticated audit trail that allows you to view the entire signing experience for each signer.

How do I fill out a PDF form?

Building or uploading a document in OneSpan Sign is fast and easy using a drag and drop document builder platform. It allows you to quickly assemble the form fields and signature fields you need for your agreements. This process can also be expedited and automated with the use of templates. Templates are ideal for frequently used documents, like NDAs and boilerplate contracts.

View the step by step tutorial for building templates on our Resource Center.

How can I upload an image file of my signature?

You can create and save an image of your signature as part of a simple and straightforward process. This signature tool allows you to save an online signature under your account profile and apply it when signing documents in the future.

  1. From the My Account screen accessed from the top menu in the platform, select Signature from the left-hand toolbar
  2. Click the pen icon
  3. Draw your signature using your mouse, touchpad or trackpad, or stylus
  4. If you make a mistake, click Clear to wipe the block
  5. When satisfied, click Save

    To learn more, watch the video tutorial on our Resource Center

Can I use OneSpan Sign on a Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone or Android smartphone?

Yes! OneSpan Sign allows users to add signatures, create signatures, and/or sign PDFs online using their preferred device and operating system.

Can I use OneSpan Sign offline without an Internet connection?

Yes! The OneSpan Sign mobile app offers offline capabilities, allowing users to fill & sign their documents whenever they choose. The solution functions exactly as it would with internet connectivity, and once the mobile device once again connects to the web, OneSpan Sign will automatically synchronize with the platform and upload the transaction where it can be sent normally.

To learn more about this process, watch the video tutorial here.

Factors to consider when choosing an e-signature software

Electronic signatures have been legal and available in the market for decades. As a result, there are many vendors offering electronic signature solutions that may appear similar at first, but selecting the right e-signature solution is important to make sure you achieve your business goals as the business grows and changes over time.

Consider the following when reviewing e-signature vendors.

Understanding the specific requirements of the document

The unique requirements of your use case will be a major factor in determining which electronic signature solution will be ideal for your organization. Consider factors such as document length, process steps, number of signers, and compliance requirements. To streamline, automate, and better manage these workflows, OneSpan partners with Smart Communications and delivers advanced workflow management.

Furthermore, it is very common for enterprises to start using e-signature in one line of business and then expand to other lines of business over time. When evaluating solutions, be sure to consider the needs of today and tomorrow.

Security and legal acceptance needed

There are three different types of electronic signatures: Basic, Advanced, and Qualified. Each offers a different level of assurance, and regulations in different countries set standards around what kind of signature is required where. 

  • Basic electronic signature: Also called a simple electronic signature, this is the most rudimentary form. Effectively, this is a handwritten signature in electronic form and contains no underlying security or encryption technology.
  • Advanced electronic signature: This is the most commonly used signature type and possesses high identity proofing requirements in order to qualify. This is important in business applications and in high value transactions, because the identity proofing capabilities help ensure the validity and enforceability of the contract or transaction.
  • Qualified electronic signature (QES): A QES has an even higher standard to ensure authenticity. A QES must be backed by a digital certificate issued by a qualified trust service provider or certified authority. 

Consult your legal team to ensure your preferred e-signature solution will be compliant in your area.

Pricing plans available

Pricing plans vary by vendor and are typically structured around either number of documents signed or number of user seats. In addition, some vendors, like OneSpan, offer an enterprise plan catered to the needs of enterprise workflows and signatures at scale. This is an important distinction, because enterprise organizations and workflows are often much more complex than those of smaller businesses. Enterprise plans often include the support resources and advanced functionality required to make these digital workflows a success.

Furthermore, plans like the Professional Plan at OneSpan are designed to help organizations of all sizes spin up an electronic signature solution and start signing quickly. When launching a new workflow or as a stop-gap measure in an existing process, plans like this can be attractive in the right circumstances.

Integration capabilities

A single workflow can involve several enterprise applications in addition to an electronic signature solution. To facilitate the best experience and the most efficient workflow, it is important that these applications integrate. Review your use case and find a vendor with integrations catered to the enterprise including connectors for solutions like Salesforce, Sharepoint, and Workday.

Ease of use

Electronic signature solutions are used by signers who may have never encountered the solution before and potentially not within the presence of a representative of the organization. For that reason, ease of use is essential. It must be intuitive even to those who are not technologically inclined.

Final thoughts

Compared to the traditional ink and paper signing process, electronic signature clearly offers advantages. It may have once been a differentiator, but changing customer preferences and maturation of digital solutions are rapidly turning electronic signature into a commodity. To compete in the digital business arena, electronic signatures are an important tool.

Whether looking to increase security, improve the customer experience, or simply reduce costs, electronic signature may be the key.

The Beginner's Guide to Electronic Signatures

The Beginner's Guide to Electronic Signatures

This essential briefing introduces important legal concepts and key considerations when creating digital business processes with e-signatures.

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