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Practical Tech Tip: How to electronically sign a PDF

PDFs are already starting to replace paper documents in many offices across the country. They’re more flexible, portable and convenient to use — but not everyone knows you can sign a PDF document just like a physical one.

Nearly every PDF-reading application features some way to electronically sign documents and forms. With the right tools and know-how, anyone can put their autograph on a digital doc and re-use that signature when they need it again.

Whether you’re signing a contract or lease, or simply want to put your signature on your best work, here’s how you can sign PDF files no matter which system you’re on; plus, we’ll also show you how to sign digital documents from your smartphone.

Signing a doc the digital way

No, you don’t have to print and sign a document to put your signature on it.

In some cases, if you’re buying a home or signing for a loan, you may be required to use secured digital signatures provided by the document creators, but here we’re covering situations where a normal e-signature will get the job done.

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Ordinary e-signatures can be drawn with your mouse or trackpad, but some apps allow you to use a photo of a signature as well. These apps feature signature templates that take your drawn or photographed signature and convert it to a transparent image that can sit right on top of any digital document.

Here’s how you can sign PDFs on some of the most popular readers on the web:

Sign a PDF in Adobe Reader

Adobe reader is one of the most common PDF applications on both PC and Mac.

To sign a document, simply open your PDF in Adobe Acrobat or Reader. Look for the Sign icon, which looks like the nib of a pen. It should be in the toolbar at the top of the application. Alternatively, you can select Tools > Fill & Sign to open the signature panel.

Next, when prompted, select Me since you will be the one signing.

Fields you can fill out should then turn blue in the document. Find the space you want to write your signature, click it, and click on the Sign icon again. You’ll have the choice to either sketch your signature with your mouse or trackpad, type your initials or upload a photo of the signature you want.

To save your signature, check the box that says Save signature and click Apply to sign the document.

Sign a document in Preview for Mac

Apple’s Mac ecosystem comes with a built-in PDF reader called Preview. In addition to being a go-to for any and all kinds of digital documents, Preview makes it easy to add and share signatures across your entire family of devices.

To create and sign with a signature, open Preview and select the markup button, which looks like the tip of a pen.

This will show the Markup toolbar. From here, select the Sign icon, which looks like a small cursive signature. The on-screen instructions will guide you through the rest of the process of creating your signature.

After creating your signature, you’ll have the option to drag, drop and size it to your liking for the document. Keep in mind that Preview also connects to iCloud, so any other devices you’ve signed into will have access to the signatures you create.

Sign a PDF on your iPhone or iPad

Just like on Mac, you can sign documents using the built-in software on your iPhone and iPad. Plus, you’ll have access to any signatures you’ve saved from any computer you used while signed in to iCloud.

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To begin, simply open the PDF you want to sign. Select the markup icon, which looks like the tip of a pen. Once the markup menu opens, select the + icon at the bottom right corner of the screen and select Signature.

Here, you’ll see your saved signatures, and you’ll have the chance to create your own using your fingers. Once your signature is prepared, select it and drop it in your document wherever you wish to sign.

Sign a document on your Android with Adobe Fill & Sign

Just like with the desktop version of Adobe Acrobat, the free Android equivalent can be used to sign documents as well.

Simply open your PDF of choice and tap on the area you want to fill or sign. Once you’ve selected it, tap the Sign icon to continue. You’ll be given the option to doodle your signature on your screen, and you’ll be able to place it right inside the box to sign your document.

This app is also a great way to fill out forms and you can use it to type on PDFs for a clean, professional-looking document. Adobe Acrobat is available as a free download from the Google Play Store. Click or tap here to download it for Android.

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