Which Apps Can Be Used for Digital Signatures?
So you’re looking for an app that enables you to digitally sign documents?
Before you sign up for a paid subscription with a popular e-signature platform, it’s important to understand the difference between “electronic signatures” and “digital signatures”.
Many organizations confuse these two terms, invariably wasting time and resources as a result. Clearly differentiating between digital and electronic signatures before you decide on an app will ensure that you avoid this pitfall.
In this post we’ll cover the different types of virtual signatures and look at four platforms you can use to safely and securely sign documents electronically.
What’s the Difference Between an Encrypted Digital Signature and a Standard Electronic Signature?
A digital signature is a special kind of electronic signature. Any virtual mark attached to a document to signify acceptance of an agreement counts as an electronic signature.
Some types of electronic signatures are more secure than others. And digital signatures provide the highest possible levels of encryption and third-party verification.
Digital signatures depend on a “public key infrastructure.” An individual purchases a “personal key,” which they add to a document using specialized software to create a hash. Personal keys are stored securely on a hard drive or USB stick.
A signed document is verified by running it through a “public key.” If the hash generated by the public key matches the hash created by the signer’s personal key, the signature is validated. If it doesn’t, it must have been forged or tampered with.
Who Should Use Digital Signatures?
Companies that require extremely high levels of document security and iron-clad guarantees of signature authenticity should use digital signatures. In the vast majority of cases, however, digital signatures are not required. For most organizations, opting for digital signatures will lead to wasted time and resources.
Standard electronic signatures are legally binding and covered by various pieces of legislation. Moreover, modern platforms automatically provide additional layers of security such as document tracking, auto-generated signature certificates, and protected online storage.
Unless you are working in an industry that mandates the use of digital signatures, or dealing with high-value contracts, you should consider using a standard e-sign platform rather than a specialized digital signature solution.
What Are the Best E-Signature Platforms?
Below is a quick overview of four of the top electronic signature platforms. We’ve noted which ones support digital signatures.
- Adobe Acrobat Reader and Adobe Sign – Adobe PDF and Adobe Sign are two options for individuals that wish to use digital signatures. Adobe Acrobat Reader includes a feature for users to upload a digital certificate. Adobe Sign, Adobe’s proprietary electronic signature software, also supports the use of digital signatures, in addition to providing document sending and tracking features.
- Microsoft Word – Microsoft Word allows users to upload digital certificates to documents. Using Microsoft Word represents what is probably the most rudimentary way of approving a document with a digital signature. The positive side, however, is that it is also the most inexpensive. If you don’t mind working with documents in this format and are not looking for any advanced management tools, then Microsoft Word may be the tool for you. Keep in mind that you will still need to purchase a digital certificate if you do not want to use a self-created one.
- PandaDoc – PandaDoc is a comprehensive document management platform that includes some of the most secure electronic signing tools currently on the market. While PandaDoc doesn’t have functionality for digital signatures, individuals and organizations that require an electronic signature solution with extensive cybersecurity will struggle to find a better option. A “forever free” plan is available alongside packages for small and medium businesses (SMBs) and enterprises.
- DocuSign – DocuSign is a popular solution and one of the oldest e-signature tools on the market. Many large companies and enterprises use it. Digital signature functionality is available on its custom enterprise plans, which also include document management and tracking features.