If you’re not already using electronic signatures to approve documents, either in a personal or business capacity, you’re needlessly wasting time and resources. Document workflows have increasingly migrated online, meaning that manual signing often requires numerous instances of printing and scanning, especially when more than one signature is required.
Electronic signatures, on the other hand, can be affixed to documents in seconds. Even better, modern platforms provide a range of valuable features, like analytics, online editing, secure storage, mobile apps, and more. And several well-known apps offer long-term free plans.
In this post, we’ll show you exactly how to create a free electronic signature and look at some of the best apps currently on the market.
How Do Electronic Signatures Work?
Electronic signatures work in much the same way as traditional signatures, with the exception that they are digital. An electronic signature is placed on the signature line of a document, represents the agreement of the signing party, and is fully legally enforceable, often more so than a pen-and-ink signature because correspondence between parties in the form of emails is usually readily available if issues arise.
Basic electronic signatures are essentially images that resemble handwritten signatures. An image file is uploaded to a document and placed in the appropriate place. The most secure and complex type of electronic signature is a “digital signature.” Digital signatures require dedicated software, digital encryption infrastructure, and registration with a “certificate authority.” However, they are not required in the majority of cases, and standard electronic signatures will suffice.
What Features Should You Look for in a Free E-Signature Platform?
When evaluating free e-signature platforms, it’s helpful to clarify precisely which features you require. Apps often have significantly different functionality, pricing structures (if you decide to upgrade at a later stage), caps in regards to the number of documents you can sign, and more.
Here are a few features that you should take into account when choosing a free e-signature platform:
- Straightforward e-sign functionality – Is adding a signature to a document easy? Opt for a platform that allows you to affix your signature to documents quickly and intuitively, without unnecessary steps.
- Usage caps – How many documents can you upload, sign, receive, and send per month? Some platforms enforce strict limits, while others, like PandaDoc, allow for unlimited e-signatures and document uploads.
- Online storage – If you plan to keep your signed documents online, ensure that your chosen app provides free and secure cloud storage.
- Ease of use – Some free apps have clunky, difficult-to-use interfaces and needlessly long online workflows. Pay particular attention to mobile and tablet dashboards.
- Document compatibility – Will the documents you sign be in a particular file format? Most platforms support the main document formats like PDF, Microsoft Word, and Google Docs, but this is a point that you should still take into account.
Top Free Electronic Signature Software: An Overview
There are dozens of electronic signature apps to choose from. To help save time, we’ve picked four of the best options. Here is a brief overview of each one:
- PandaDoc – PandaDoc is the market leader in the document management space. The app has a wide range of features for streamlining your workflow, including a straightforward document editor, analytics dashboard, notification tools, and secure online storage. Its long-term free plan is arguably the best available. Unlike many competitors, PandaDoc does not enforce caps on the number of documents that can be sent to recipients.
- Microsoft Word – For users who don’t require access to advanced features, Microsoft Word provides a viable way to create a free electronic signature. This option is particularly well-suited to individuals that receive documents as .doc files. You simply open your document in Microsoft Word, add a signature, and save it to your computer or return it to the original sender as an email attachment. For more advanced functionality, you’ll need dedicated e-sign software.
- Eversign – eversign is unique in that it offers features not usually found in an unpaid plan. The free package includes SMS credits (to enable two-factor authentication for recipients) and limited API access. Users can send a maximum of five documents every month.
- GetAccept – GetAccept provides a free plan with unlimited signatures and uploads and access to a host of key features, including tracking, online storage, and the mobile app. Users can send up to three documents every month. GetAccept has a clean, easy-to-navigate user interface and competitively-priced premium plans. It’s a solution that’s well worth checking out.
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