Ask LH: How Can I Automate Signing Documents?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m trying to find software that could be used in conjunction with Dropbox or other features to allow people to put a signature on a document and email it back or otherwise. I’m trying to cut back on paper and hug some trees! Any suggestions? Thanks, Signing Up

Dear Signing Up,

It’s a common challenge. Large corporations often invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into workflow automation systems, where signing a document is frequently a crucial stage. But for less structured uses, you can knock together a solution fairly simply without needing to go to that trouble.

While we’re big fans of Dropbox around here, it’s probably overkill for these purposes. Dropbox is great for sharing files, but when you want to let other individuals edit the contents of those files, it’s less suitable. There are two obvious ways you could go about solving this problem:

  • Our favourite free PDF reader software, Nitro PDF, has a very handy QuickSign feature, which lets you easily add a signature to any PDF document. If there’s a network of people you regularly want signed documents from, then get them to install the software, and use email to send the documents. They can easily sign, save and send them back by return email.
  • If you want documents held in a common location where people can edit them, both Google Docs and Microsoft Skydrive let you upload documents and share them for editing with others — a process which can easily include adding a scanned-in signature. Neither requires your signatories to actually have a Gmail or Live account, so it’s a pretty flexible solution.

If readers can recommend other services for the same task, let’s hear about it in the comments.


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