electronic signaturesMost people assume that digital signatures are meant for use* only in corporate communication but they for everyone.

For example, if you get a legal contract (like a rental agreement) or an NDA as an email attachment, you can either print the document on paper, sign it with a pen and then fax it back, or, to save time, you can use a digital signature to sign* that document.

[*] If you add your scanned handwritten signature to an electronic document, that won’t be a ‘digital signature’ since anyone can use that signature image into another document.

Obtain Digital Signatures for Documents Online

EchoSign and Right Signature are currently the most popular web-based services that let you obtain digital signatures on PDFs and Word documents without any hassles. The signed documents are unalterable, they are legally binding and you can also verify that the digital signatures are authentic.

Electronic Signatures

Now Adobe too has entered the space with the launch of Adobe eSignatures – an elegant web app that puts the digital signature process in the cloud.

You upload a PDF document to Adobe.com and then specify email addresses of all individuals who are required to sign that document. Once all the parties have signed the document, you can download it to your computer as a digitally certified Adobe PDF.

There’s only one copy of the document that is stored at a central location so you don’t have to send email attachments back and forth. When you open this document in say Adobe Reader, the digital certificate seal is displayed as a blue ribbon and this will help you verify /validate the integrity of that document.

The service will also work as a repository so you’ll always have instant access to all your signed contracts and agreements without having to hunt the Inbox.

PDF with Digital Signatures

You can either use the built-in style for signatures or you can upload a scanned image of your handwritten signature so that the digital signature looks just like your actual sign.

Adobe eSignatures is remarkably simple and the different pieces just work as you would expect them to. All you need is an Adobe ID and a Flash capable browser to sign documents (sorry iPad users).

Digital Signatures & Microsoft Office

Desktop software like Microsoft Office also let you digitally sign documents but there’s a difference. For digital signatures to work with Office, you first need to obtain a digital certificate from a company like Verisign or Thawte but that’s not required if you are using the Adobe service.

You can currently use Adobe eSignatures to obtain digital signatures on PDF documents for free but it’s unlikely to stay that way for long.

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