5 Ways to Create an Electronic Signature

Alongside growing dependence on technology for work and collaborating across distances, vulnerability to cybercrime has also risen. Between 2017 and 2021, incidences of cybercrime rose from 2.9 million to 5.76 million, with the majority of complaints being fraud related. Cases of identity theft more than tripled in that period. As such, knowing how to sign a PDF/Word doc and how to create electronic signatures is crucial for ensuring their security and authenticity

You’ve probably had to sign an electronic document at some point. So, you might know that the first time can be disorienting and you may have had to scramble through the web trying to figure out how to sign a PDF/Word doc. But what exactly is an electronic signature and how can you easily create one? This guide covers everything you need to know.

What Is an Electronic or Digital Signature?

Stock image of phone with words "sign here."

An electronic signature is a digital version of a regular written signature that is used to electronically sign documents. They are legally binding in most countries and are often used for contracts, agreements, and other official documents. In most cases, an electronic signature is a scanned image of a person’s signature.

However, more sophisticated electronic signatures, or digital signatures, use cryptographic techniques to ensure signature authenticity. Overall, electronic signatures provide a convenient and secure way to sign documents without the need for paper or ink.

Are Electronic Signatures Secure?

Each type of electronic signature varies in security level and some have more authentication requirements than others. Signatures with many authentication steps are often more secure than physical ones, i.e. digital signatures can be bound with tamper-evident controls and have end-to-end encryption

They are acceptable for the toughest authentication requirements and are legally permitted to replace handwritten signatures for most applications. To protect your personal data, a trusted, secure e-signature provider can also provide bank-level protection. Third-party e-signature companies will ask signees for photo I.D. and personal details to legally bind them to the contracts they sign.

If you’re worried about the security of your documents and want to ensure signatures are kept hidden from unauthorized viewers, consider using a VPN when sending them. CyberGhost VPN protects your connection with military-grade encryption, so you can collect electronic signatures securely

Electronic Signatures Versus Digital Signatures

Electronic signature and digital signature: These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re not quite the same thing. An electronic signature refers to a simple picture or image of a handwritten signature. On the other hand, a digital signature is an electronic signature that incorporates encryption as an extra security measure. It makes use of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), which involves safe key creation and storage.

In many settings, electronic signatures are sufficient, but authenticated digital signatures are usually required for higher security contracts. 

How to Create an Electronic Signature

With digital signatures becoming more common in remote team settings, knowing how to create electronic signatures is more important than ever. We’ll cover how to sign a PDF/Word doc, how to create an electronic signature in Word, Adobe Fill and Sign, and by using third-party authenticity software.

How to Create an Electronic Signature in Word

For people seeking low-cost ways to create electronic signatures, using Microsoft Word or similar programs can be a good choice. While using MS Word to create e-signatures might seem outdated, the program offers several options for users to do this. Here are three ways to add a signature in Word on a Doc. or Docx. file. 

  1. Scan your handwritten signature. This is definitely the most old-school (and awkward) way of adding a digital signature. First, take a picture of a handwritten signature and scan it to your computer using a printer. Once you have the file uploaded, you can add it to any Word document with the “insert” function or by copy-pasting. 
  1. Use the draw function. This method is perfect if your device supports a digital pen, but you can still use it with just your mouse or touchpad. Simply click on the “draw” tab and select the color you wish to sign with. You can then either use your digital pen to sign directly on your touch screen or use your cursor to write your signature. Remember that using a cursor can be difficult and your signature might turn out a little messier than usual.
Image of the draw function in Microsoft Word
  1. Insert → Text → Signature. Under “text” options in the “insert” tab, you’ll find the option to “Add a signature line”. When you click it, a dialogue box will appear where you can fill in the signee’s details. A line will appear in the document, indicating that a signature is expected there. To sign it, right-click on the line and select “sign”. You’ll be given the option to upload an image of a signature. 

Electronic Signature on PDFs With Adobe Acrobat

The free version of Adobe Acrobat has many useful features, including allowing you to easily create a digital signature. Simply open the PDF you wish to sign and click on the three horizontal dots on the right side of the upper toolbar. One of the drop-down menu options will be “sign”.

When you click on this, you’ll see options to “add signature” or “add initials”. Select “add signature” and enter your signature into the box that appears. 

Image showing how to sign in Adobe

Using Other Adobe Programs

While the regular Adobe Acrobat app is an efficient way to sign documents on desktops, Adobe also offers apps for Android and Apple devices. So, if you need to sign documents on your tablet, phone or Ipad, you can download Adobe Acrobat Sign or Adobe Fill and Sign

Adobe Acrobat Sign. With the help of Acrobat Sign, you can send, sign, manage, and archive documents and forms using valid electronic signatures. To sign papers, get other people to sign, and keep track of the signing  process, you can use the regular online or mobile applications.

Adobe Sign and Fill. Create an account with Adobe Sign. Once you have done this, you can upload your PDF file to the site. Adobe Sign will then provide you with a link that you can share with others who need to sign the document. When they click on the link, they will be taken to a page where they can enter their name and create their signature. 

Once all the required signatures have been collected, Adobe Sign will send you a notification so that you can download the completed document.

Make a Digital Signature With Google Docs

Unlike Microsoft Word, Google Docs is totally cost-free and available to anyone with a Google account. To sign a document using Google docs, follow these simple steps:

  1. Open the document you wish to sign in Google Docs.
  2. Click “insert” from the panel above.
  3. Choose “drawing” from the dropdown menu.
Image showing the draw function on Google Docs
  1. Select “new” to open the drawing box.
Image showing draw box on Google Docs
  1. Use your mouse or touchscreen to draw your signature
  2. Click “save and close” 

If your document is a Doc. or Docx. file, you can open it directly with Google Docs. If it’s a PDF, you’ll need to convert it before opening it in Google Docs. 

Using Digital Signature Software

Digital signatures are the next level of electronic signatures. Signees must go through a third-party mediator who verifies their identity by checking photo identification and personal information. This ensures that signatures are authentic and coming from the intended signee, who is then held accountable under law to adhere to contract terms. 

Since these companies provide an added security and verification service, digital signature software or website membership isn’t usually free. 

If you just need to sign a one-off document, many offer a free trial period that you can leverage. Here’s a list of common platforms used to create digital signatures: 

  1. DocuSign. With more than one million customers worldwide, more than a billion people have signed with DocuSign. It offers a 30-day free trial without requiring credit card information — all you need is an email address. There are three membership tiers: Personal (USD$10 per month), Standard (USD$25 per month, and Business Pro (USD$40 per month).
  2. SignWell. It offers a free version that’s good for signing up to three documents monthly. Personal plans start at $8 per month and business plans start at $24 per month. 
  3. HelloSign. With features that enable users to collect up to 20 signatures on a single document, signing with HelloSign is an iron-clad agreement. If you’re looking for bank-level security, HelloSign might be worth considering. The cheapest plan starts at $15 per month.
  4. SignEasy. This service includes mobile apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. It offers a free trial period and personal users can sign up for USD$10 per month, billed annually or $15 per month billed monthly. 
  5. SignRequest. Known for being simple and easy to use, SignRequest is used by more than 300,000 people worldwide. It’s totally free for up to 10 documents per month which is a massive bonus. You can also try out their paid versions on a 14-day free trial. 

The Bottom Line

Cybercrime has increased significantly in recent years. A majority of complaints have been fraud or identity theft related. With the global workforce becoming increasingly remote, there’s a growing need for smart digital solutions for all aspects of work. For this reason, knowing how to sign a PDF/Word doc and create an electronic signature is paramount for working effectively across distances. With the methods outlined here, you should be able to easily sign contracts for work or other agreements. 

If you’re concerned about your signature being leaked, secure your network with CyberGhost VPN. Our VPN offers military-grade encryption so you can sign documents without fear of fraud or identity theft


What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature is a digitalized version of a regular print signature. It can be used to sign digital documents, including PDF and Word contracts or agreements. You can create them using Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat and send them securely using a VPN.

How do I create an electronic signature?

There are several different ways of creating electronic signatures. You can do this manually in MS Word or by editing PDF documents on Adobe Acrobat or Internet Explorer. You can also subscribe to a third-party digital signature software provider for extra security and authenticity assurance. Popular providers include DocuSign, SignWell, and HelloSign. 

Can I create an e-signature for free?

Yes, you can create e-signatures for free by editing your Word or PDF documents and using their sign features. If you want to create an authenticated digital signature for free, you can do this by opting for a free trial on a digital signature platform

Can an electronic signature be typed?

In some cases, it’s enough to provide a typed digital signature. However, some contracts may require you to have a written digital signature resembling your regular signature. CyberGhost VPN encrypts your connection when sending important signed documents. 

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