Filling out forms comes hand in hand with being an adult, as nearly all aspects of life require a signature. This can include signing a job contract, a lease on a house, and marital papers, to name but a few. As such, a signature holds you accountable in court and makes a document legally sound. With that in mind, electronic signature software not only makes the signing process faster and more manageable, but it also offers comprehensive security.
However, it’s not always straightforward to choose the best solution. This is because electronic signature apps tend to look alike and seemingly offer identical features. Fortunately, our expert reviews give more insight into which solution is the best for you. We also offer platform comparisons, guides, FAQs, and more, to help you make your decision with the most accurate information possible.
Best Electronic Signature Software of 2023
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How To Create an Electronic Signature
There are a few ways to make an electronic signature. The simplest method is scanning a wet signature after writing it on a piece of paper. From then on, it can be inserted as an image into any document. Although signing with this image is relatively quick, the initial process is time-consuming.
It's similarly uncomplicated to draw a signature online and download it as an image. The most significant advantage is that online services that only allow you to draw or type signatures are free. However, these platforms come without notarization and security. Furthermore, since your signature is an image file, it’s easy to steal, even directly from a document.
Another option is to use Microsoft Word to create a signature block, which you can reuse anytime with Word’s AutoText feature. Using this method converts the document to read-only to prevent tampering. Having said this, the file is still untraceable, and it’s virtually impossible to check who opens it.
For all intents and purposes, using electronic signature software is the most straightforward method. Only this kind of program provides users with options like sending files in bulk to multiple recipients upon signing. Moreover, only these apps let you create digital signatures, which are advanced, encrypted e-signatures that make documents traceable through audit trails.
Free vs Paid E-Signature Software
While many electronic signature services offer free-forever versions, they often have significant drawbacks. For example, the number of document exports is restricted, there are no templates, and you can forget about team management. Moreover, document formatting comes with only a handful of tools, assuming there’s a text editor at all.
Free versions are also less secure than their paid counterparts since there is no way of verifying signers or requesting further means of authentication. Some apps also add watermarks to documents signed while being free, but this also happens if it’s just the free trial of a paid solution. Ultimately, if basic signing is all you need, then it can be done for free.
On the flip side, electronic signature software shows its full potential when paid for. Besides significantly upgrading the features offered by free services, they offer unlimited document sending and reusable templates. Furthermore, they protect your privacy in various ways, such as with two-factor authentication, end-to-end document encryption, and by letting you track documents.
Paid electronic signature solutions also offer team collaboration tools. For example, they let multiple users sign up for the same account. Moreover, they have varying subscriptions for bigger and smaller businesses alike.
Are Electronic Signatures Legal?
Regardless of using software or any other signing method, electronic signatures are considered legally acceptable. This is ensured by the electronic Identification, Authentication, and Trust Services (eIDAS) regulation in Europe, and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) in Canada.
Other countries like Japan have their own laws, mostly accepting policies regarding e-signatures. Meanwhile, the U.S. made e-signatures legal through the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act of 2000 – famous for having been signed electronically by then-president Bill Clinton – and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA).
The IRS accepts various e-signatures, including typed, scanned, or otherwise digitized ones, but also those written with a sign pad, stylus, or an electronic signature service. Therefore, any contract signed with an e-signature is enforceable and serves as admissible evidence in court.
Electronic signature services must comply with the aforementioned regulations, and many also adhere to additional policies, such as HIPAA, Soc 2 Type II, PCI DSS, and GDPR. They use a digital seal, the electronic equivalent of a physical stamp, to make documents legally binding. Finally, any paper can be notarized either by the app or a third-party service like Notarize.
Is Electronic Signature Software Safe?
The practice of signing has been around for centuries, so it’s naturally developed some pitfalls. For example, anyone skilled enough can imitate someone’s wet signature, allowing them to steal a person’s identity by continually using forged signatures on official forms.
With electronic signature software, identity theft is unheard of. The service verifies the user when they sign in, and most programs offer additional security through two-factor authentication.
By issuing an audit trail, also known as a completion certificate, these services track and timestamp documents to show who edited and signed them. This feature also reveals signers’ browsers and IP addresses.
As for authenticating contacts, users can request facial and biometric authentication or ask signers to verify themselves through social media, email, phone numbers, and more.
Overall, leaving wet signatures behind in favor of electronic signature software is advised. These platforms make businesses’ workflows more streamlined, as the signing process becomes quicker and much safer. Furthermore, a document never gets lost since it can be tracked, and it’s also easily revealed whether your partners have signed it yet.
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