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How to add signatures to PDF (and what else to consider)

In this article, we’ll explain how to add a signature to a PDF file and why you should perhaps look for a better and easier option. 

Don’t worry, our guide is very easy to follow and doesn't require a certificate or any technical knowledge beyond the level of using Facebook. Let’s jump right in.   

Digital vs electronic signatures?

If you always thought that a digital signature is an unreliable way of signing your contracts and legal documents, you’ve made a common mistake. There is a difference between an electronic signature and a digital one. 

How to add a digital signature to a PDF file, cover image

An electronic signature is any type of signature you can add to your document. Just because you easily add electronic signatures, doesn’t mean they are secure, legally binding, or relevant in any way. 

It’s the equivalent of ending a Word document with a typed signature. Anyone can do it and there is no way of validating the said signature since it doesn't require a certificate for signing. 

An electronic signature is basically an image of a signature, which doesn't bring any value to a PDF document. If you want to give your documents a fighting chance, you’d want to use something that gives you more functionality than a basic PDF document (more on this later).

How do digital signatures work?

A digital signature is a secure and encrypted way of agreeing to a specified legal document. In order to be able to send your documents to clients, employees and partners who live in a different part of the world and procure their signatures, you need to find a way to do that in a legally binding manner. 

How digital signatures work and how to apply them to a PDF document

That’s why the digital signature was created. It’s a unique copy that is linked to the person that signed the PDF file. Every such signature includes the person’s IP address, making it impossible to forge. 

Once they click sign, there can be no more changes made to the document. 

With the recent shift to remote work, the need for digital signature tools has risen alongside Video conferencing tools and file-sharing software.

Things to consider when adding a digital signature to a PDF

There are three major aspects of a digital signature, as well as a few we think are important to highlight. 

The first one is - being globally accepted and legally compliant. Digital signatures use PKI - a public key infrastructure standard that ensures all vendor-generated keys are securely stored. 

Secondly, digital signatures come with timestamps. They show when the PDF document was signed, which is especially important in any type of business situation. This means that you can sign PDF documents and rest assured knowing they are valid.

Thirdly, digital signatures make it easy to trace the signer. This happens because digital signatures create an audit trail that makes them secure and easy for record-keeping.

There are also other benefits. Without the need to print anything out, you can save a lot of energy that gets used in order to produce and transport paper.

Why do we love them?

Digital documents save time. Since they diminish the need for printing, adding a handwritten signature, and scanning or sending PDF files through snail mail, you can easily save valuable time and storage place. 

Since your clients can sign your contracts and proposals in seconds, you can start working on the project sooner and deliver the results without a time lag. This is a huge win-win for both you and the client. 

Why do you need a digital signature?

Although we’re big proponents of remote work, we understand why some people may have hesitations about it. If you’re offering a service you can provide to people in other parts of the world, it doesn’t make sense to limit yourself to your geographic location. 

Illustration of office workers creating PDF documents

In order to have more confidence in your partnerships and relationships with your customers and clients, you want to take any necessary precautions you can. The best way to do this is by utilizing a worldwide accepted way of signing deals. 

If the worst-case scenario ever comes to fruition, you will have a leg to stand on. In litigation, you can show the terms your client agreed to and the tracing of their signature. On the other hand, if you only use an electronic signature for your PDF document, you can’t actually prove that the client is the one who signed the contract. 

While we would never wish for anyone to be in this situation, it’s good to be prepared. Digital signatures also build your credibility. They show your clients that you mean business and are serious about your company and the people you work with. 

It gives them peace of mind, knowing that if you don’t stick to your part of the agreement, they can hold you responsible. 

Digital signatures also help you stand out from the competition. No matter what industry you’re in, you need to be able to create and sign air-tight agreements. 

Signature options

Once you receive a PDF document that requires your signature, you have two options. 

If you’re just adding an electronic signature, all you have to do is open the PDF file in Adobe Reader and right-click on the place where you want to add your signature - the signature field.

From there, you get two options - one to add an initial and one to add a signature. Once you choose the signature, it will open up a new window, in which you’ll be able to type in your name and by it - sign a PDF. 

A signature as it would appear in a PDF document

When you do that, your typed-in name will appear as cursive (which can look like a handwritten signature) in the document. You have the option to choose from a few different fonts and once you do, you’re done. 

Adding a signature to a PDF document the right way.

Adding a digital signature to a PDF is a bit harder. Start by acquiring a digital certificate. If you don’t have one, you won’t be able to sign a PDF. The best way to secure one is from an official provider. That way you won't have to question the certificate authority.

From there, open Adobe Acrobat. It’s a popular app that helps you insert digital signatures into PDFs.

After that: 

  • Click on Tools and find Forms and Certificates and click open
  • Select Digitally Sign and the signature you want to use
  • If this is the first time you’re signing a document, click on Configure New Digital ID and follow the instructions
  • Shape the signature and click on the Sign icon
Where to put a signature block in a PDF document

Now that we've shown you different sign options, let's jump into a guide that displays an easier way for signing PDFs.

What to use instead?

If you’re looking to avoid Adobe Acrobat but want to securely add digital signatures, keep track of your documents and utilize analytics, you'll love Better Proposals.

Our platform allows you to create beautifully designed contracts and other documents in no time. Since all of them are web-based, your clients can easily sign them with legally binding digital signatures. This means that all your documents will be sent as secure links that lead to landing pages

All of our proposal templates come with a digital signature field, meaning you won’t have to jump through hoops to create a singing form. Since the client can sign your proposal directly, there is no need for creating an additional signature file.  

We’ve made it very easy for anyone to sign a document. All your clients need is access to email and a keyboard. We won’t make them sign up for our service or ask for any contact information. 

They also don't have to have any type of certificate or digital ID, nor do they need to print a PDF form.

Should you print PDF documents?

Your clients will receive the document with a very clear signature icon, which shows where they need to type in their names. 

alternatives to using PDF files to take signatures

Once they type it, it turns into a digital signature that is secure and can be traced to the signer. You can clearly see the date and other information.

What a signed document should look like

Whether you’re on the sending or receiving end of a Better Proposals document, your experience will be amazing. We worked hard to make sure everything is easy to do. 

What happens when someone signs your document

Not only is Better Proposals amazing for your digital signature needs, but also for so much more. Let’s take a look at other possibilities the Better Proposals platform offers. 

What else can Better Proposals help you out with?

Better Proposals is a great tool for creating, approving, and sending beautifully designed documents like business proposals, contracts, statements of work and more. With our platform, you can say goodbye to Word proposals and PDF documents, since we can help you create your documents faster. 

We offer more than 200 document templates that cover a lot of industries and needs. From design and marketing to finance and home improvement, we cover it all. Once you choose your template, you’ll see how easy our editor is to use. 

How to create a business proposal?

You really don't need any design experience to use our editor. If you want to change or customize any of the prewritten content, all you have to do is click on the plus sign and choose whether you want to add text, image, video, or something from your content library.

Wondering what a content library is? Well, it's a great feature that allows you to save your content for future use. It's a great time-saver in cases when you need to copy-paste large chunks of text - like your terms and conditions and such.

Web-based alternative to PDF file, including signature-taking

Our proposal templates follow the structure most clients expect nowadays. They don’t have a lot of time to read 30-page PDF documents and want you to get straight to the point. If at any point in creating your proposal, you have any questions or want to know any tips on creating a high-converting document, you can rely on our proposal university

It will give you amazing insight into how to structure, write and design your content in a way that’s easy to understand. We also provide an example of everything we mention.

What happens after you send a document through Better Proposals?

You already know about the digital signature option, but that’s not all our customers love about the service. We also offer a payment integration that allows your clients to pay your first fee through the proposal itself. 

The payment integration can be set up through PayPal, Stripe, and GoCardless, which cover 99% of your client’s needs.

payment integrations

Furthermore, once you send your proposal, you get access to proposal analytics.

The signing process of the document

They show you who opened your proposal, did they forward it, sign it, pay and even how much time they spent on each of the proposal sections. 

Signature insights that conventional PDF files don't have

This information is extremely important when it comes to the follow-up process. If you see that the clients opened the proposal and went straight to the price and then closed it, you know that they’re looking for a cheaper alternative and that you shouldn’t spend too much time trying to save that deal. 

On the other hand, if they spent a lot of time on the timescales and your process, you know you should reach out and offer some type of clarification for them.

With all of these features and benefits in mind, it’s easy to see why Better Proposals are a better choice for your contracts and other documents than relying on PDFs and Adobe. 


The less stress you have about your business dealings, the better it is for you and everyone included. That’s what we had in mind when creating Better Proposals.

Not only does it save time, but also provides you with better insight and data that can help you shape future business decisions.

Our guide on using Better Proposals to create, send, sign and track your documents showed you the benefits of automation you probably didn’t even think about. Say goodbye to stagnant PDF documents and experience the ease of web-based business proposals, quotes and more.

Make sure to sign up for a free trial and experience benefits for yourself. 

Vanja Maganjic's profile image
Vanja Maganjic is an experienced writer with a unique passion for creating content that helps brands connect with their customers. She believes in brands that stand up to the man and thinks that storytelling is an essential part of what makes us human. Her long term goal is to become the cool auntie that gives out family-sized Kit Kats on Halloween.