PDF Editing and Signing Made Easy: How To Edit and eSign a PDF for Business

Have you ever had a situation where you had the documents you needed to accomplish a task, and realized that they were in PDF format with errors, or were incomplete? I think most of us have been there, and if we don't understand or know how to prevent the problem, we can't fix it.

One of the most important parts of preparing documents is flexibility; we never know what might change, when, or even how. To start any procedure, we need to draft a document, our original, and most of us use a word processor. Converting our documents to PDF can either seem daunting, or produce incoherent errors in the documents layout when using free online conversion sites.

There’s one daunting thing to note, once you've committed a document to PDF and don't have the original to edit on-hand, without access to the appropriate tools, there's no going back. So in this article, let’s answer the questions, “how to sign a PDF that you cannot edit?” and “how to sign a PDF that was sent to you?” We have a solution, our glimmering beacon of hope, our very own knight in shining armor!

signNow’s sister service, pdfFiller, is capable of editing PDF documents like a word processor. Once more, if you have an existing PDF you can select elements to adjust font size, color, position, and the document’s layout. If you’re stuck in a situation with a PDF you can’t seem to do anything with, plans start at $8 a month, go check it out! It’s really something! It fully integrates with signNow with the appropriate plan, which makes online document management smooth, simple, and stress-free.

And, if you’re trying to figure out how to send editable PDF documents to sign, pdfFiller is a great place to start.

Even if you don't choose a signNow plan that integrates with pdfFiller, you can sign up to pdfFiller and start managing, editing, exporting, and downloading at anytime; even during the free trial for those absolutely hair-pulling situations when you don't have enough time to choose and need to get it done yesterday. We think our free trials are more than enough time to fall in love.

That’s how to sign an uneditable PDF, so let’s tarry on and see how to edit documents and sign a PDF.

How to edit and sign a PDF when filling out forms and/or preparing an eSignature workflow

Since we already have a solution for editing a PDF stuck in document-purgatory, let's talk about adding fillable fields to your PDF for reuse.

Using signNow, it's possible to create document templates which will significantly speed up those situations where you need to reuse a document. Some situations can include invoices, contracts, license agreements, HR surveys, or even employee competency questionnaires. Templates make life simple by removing the need to set up the same document thirty times to accomplish a task. Templates are simple and easy to use, let’s go through the motions and see what that’s like.

First of all, let’s add a sample document. For practice purposes, we’ll be using the default Sample Document provided by our team. We’ll click More next to our document, and press Make Template.

From here, we’ll be asked to give our new template a name. Next up, the system will save the document and load the Templates folder automatically for us. While there, clicking the name of our new template will open the editor.

While in the editor, we’ll see a number of available fields and settings. Let’s keep it simple at first, and work our way to the more advanced features. Don’t get overwhelmed, it’s very simple.

On the left, we’ll find the signers and fields panel. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s start with Text Field.

The Text Field allows you to define an area in which the signer will be able to input information such as their name, VAT number, or their favorite holiday decorations. The limits are really up to you.

When users come to the document, if the field is marked as required, they’ll have to fill it with the appropriate information before they can complete the document.

If we select Text Field, and either click on the document, or click and drag it from the fields panel onto the document, you’ll see it populate on the page. You can click and drag to move it, and you might notice our auto-alignment feature when you place more than one field on the page. But we’ll get to that soon!

The Signature Field is what allows you to gather the signer’s John-Hancock.

The Date/Time Field allows us to capture the time and/or date the signer completed the document. This is extremely helpful for legal purposes and length-of-contract calculations.

The Initials Field allows you to gather the signer’s initials. This is commonly used next to specific terms of agreement, as supplemental acceptance of the terms of the document, or as a method of showing agreeance to changes or adjustments to an original document.

If we look under Edit & Sign we’ll find a field called Text, and it is not the same as Text Field. This field applies text to the document as a permanent element within the PDF after the document has been saved. It’s very useful for adding information to invoices like the cost of an order or service, contracts, or other agreements before sending them to the recipient(s).

Next up is My Signature, which is great when trying to solve the great mystery of how to sign a PDF electronically with no editing allowed. It’s as easy as three steps, really! We’ll go through that process in a short while.

We’ll cover the rest as we go along.

To add fields to our PDF that allow others to fill it in, it’s as simple as click-and-drag, or selecting the field you want and clicking on the document where you would like the field to go.

You can select the field to find the settings for it on the right panel. The settings vary only slightly depending on the field type. Here you’ll find the field’s assignment if you have multiple signers, under Role. Using Date/Time as an example, you can select the date format depending on the standard your organization or nation uses.

Additionally, you can add prefilled text that’ll appear in the field before the signer selects it. For example, this can be useful for adding details, the type of information expected, or basic directions.

Under the Advanced section you’ll find the Field Name. This is to help with organization, especially when using Conditional Logic.

And under Location you’ll find the position of the field in pixels, in relation to the top-left corner. To move a field, you can click-and-drag it, select it and use the move button, or by manually editing it’s location here.

Additionally, when moving fields manually with click and drag or the move button, you may notice an orange line appear in relation to other fields. This is our snapping alignment feature. It can be disabled in the Settings found on the top of the page.

If you need to add your signature to the document, the process is really simple. You can type your name to create a cursive version of your name, or draw your signature. Additionally, you can also upload a signature you’ve already created from your computer. Let’s try that now.

When you place the My Signature field, a new pane will open up and if you have any, show your existing signatures. To create a new signature, just press Add New Signature.

Here as you can see are the available variants. These options will also be available to signers when they are invited to your document.

To draw your signature, simply click-and-drag as appropriate until you’re happy with the results. You can scale the field by hovering your mouse over the edges of the field and dragging it to your desired scale.

We can also add more signers by selecting Edit Signers and pressing the add signer button.

When you’re done, and have assigned your fields to your signers, you can either Save and Close the document for later, or Invite to Sign. Let’s go ahead and save our layout.

If we navigate on the Homepage to the Templates folder, we’ll find our document. We can press Invite to Sign, or Create Signing Link. For the sake of practice, let’s Invite to Sign.

Don’t worry, there’s an email listed for John Elk, I’m allergic to fanmail. Now that we’re here, you can customize the messages for every signer, and each will be unique as per your specifications; just open the Customize Signer Email section and the rest is very straightforward. This is  incredibly great for that personal touch in client and partner rapport building.

The signing order is used for when you need signatures to pass through a specific pipeline. For example, the logistics department needs to sign-off on the need for additional transport vehicles before the finance department can approve the funds, and consequently the CEO or other executives to approve the purchase.

Under the Advanced Options includes authentication procedures like SMS or phone call and password; it also includes a vast array of notification and reminder settings to automate reminding signers about the document. Additionally, you can set the expiration of the document, when payments will be handled, where to send the signer when they’ve completed the document, etc.

When you hit Send Invite, the rest is out of your hands, so try to relax. The signers and signNow will do the rest.

When your documents are completed, you can revisit the Homepage and download the document with its History by pressing more, like we did for creating a template.

Let’s discuss very briefly how to accomplish the same thing using the signNow mobile application.

How to edit and sign a PDF document on mobile

First of all, we’re going to need the app!

SignNow on Google PlaySignNow on the Apple Store

 

We’re going to be focusing on the Android side of things, not much changes between the two versions.

The process for making a template on mobile doesn’t change very much from the PC procedure. We’re going to take a look at one way to accomplish this goal, although there are several.

If you already have a document uploaded, you can press the three-dotted menu button to the right of it to follow along. Otherwise, let’s press the + to open the Document Upload menu, and select Sample Document.

If we select the Settings button at the top, we can adjust the color options and options for how the date will appear on the document.

You might notice in the next two screenshots that these fields seem pretty familiar. Fields in the Basic tab are the same as those found under Edit & Sign on the PC version. In this case, Insert Signature is the same as My Signature, Insert Text is the same as Text, and Insert Checkmark is the same as My Checkmark.

Let’s use a basic field first, and select Insert Text for an example of the clean UI. It’s pretty simple, and when you’re done, just press the tick, or checkmark in the top-right corner.

When we add our signature, we'll be prompted to select one we’ve already saved, or to create a new one. When we create a new signature, we can choose between three color signature options. This is handy, especially when our organization or local government has regulations regarding signature color. Typically when such a rule or law exists, blue is required to show that a document is an original, not just a paper copy. This rule was generally adopted during the early years of copier machines, prior to color ink becoming affordable and widespread.

Signing in the signNow app is as easy as drawing with your finger, which is a lot easier to manage than with a mouse and keyboard.

When we’ve placed a field, we can select it by tapping it, this reveals a small selection of tools. If you press and drag the field, you can move it; and if you need to be very precise here’s a #lifehack, try moving it by rolling your finger in small increments.

If you need to scale the field, select it and press Adjust Size. One or two sliders will appear, depending on the field you’re resizing; if it’s a Text Field, you’ll have both width and height sliders. However, for your signature, you only have one; slide it from the left to right to find the size that best fits your document, or press Edit to change your signature.

By pressing the checkmark in the top-right, you’ll be led to a Select Action menu which will guide you to save your document, Invite to Sign, or turn the document into a template. We’re going to make a template and then on the Homepage we’ll navigate to our template and Invite to Sign, like we did on PC.

The process doesn’t change, it just looks different.

When we’re editing, we can select Edit to open the properties of various fields such as who that field is assigned to. We thought it important to mention that, let’s get back on track.

So we’ve initiated the Invite Signers process, and you can see the email interface. Here you can add CC recipients, a custom subject, a personalized message, and double check the email address before it’s sent into the world. When you’re satisfied with everything, you’ll press Send and be notified that when the document is completed that you'll receive an email regarding it.

You’re done, now we just have to wait. We’ve covered how to edit and sign a pdf document on PC and on mobile. Mind you, there are a lot of settings and fields that we didn’t cover for the sake of brevity. We wanted to walk you through the parts that are going to be the most important for most readers.

What about our competitors?

There are a lot of tools out there that give you the ability to add fields and sign PDFs, but which one is right for you? With all of the services available today for everything imaginable, it’s hard to choose.

What we’re going to focus on are the ones that don’t require you to provide a credit card, or pay, just to try their service. Honestly, true free trials, while somewhat harmful to the bottom line of a company, are incredibly important for customers to see what’s the best for their money. Sure, we might be using company money to pay for it, but what’s the point of getting hooked into a service if you don’t have to, just to find out it isn’t for you or your organization? And then, of course, there are those companies who really don’t like ending subscription payments; we’ve all dealt with them before, and we all hate that business model. Sometimes it makes you wonder why they’re allowed to operate in the way they do!

signNow has three competitors with true free trials and those are:

  • HelloSign
  • SignEasy
  • DocuSign

Each of them have their strengths and weaknesses. Though, for the sake of your time we'll only cover two of them today so we can discuss Conditional Logic before we close.

HelloSign in a nutshell

HelloSign isn’t a bad service, not at all. Their UI is clean, their service is simple and functional, but only on PC. The writer doesn’t have a Mac, so the results there may vary. However, there's a pretty glaring issue when it comes to HelloSign.

If a major part of your workflow is done on mobile devices such as tablets, and is done on Android, or you're not registered with a home billing address within the United States in the App Store – this service doesn’t work. Mobile browsers aren’t properly adapted to, which causes a large chunk of the screen to be clipped out even if zoomed out; and functionality is nil.

Although, if you’re on your computer, it works swimmingly. There are shortcomings, such as the lack of fields available. The fields listed are:

  • Signature
  • Initials
  • Date Signed
  • Textbox
  • Checkbox

There doesn’t appear to be any sort of conditional logic, and while other data types might exist, they must be behind a paywall if they do.

SignEasy summarized

SignEasy is another service with a clean UI, and it’s also simpler to navigate and jump into than our previous contestant. The SignEasy website service does what it’s expected to and nothing more; which compared to some services, doesn’t seem like much, unfortunately. The fields are limited to the same list as HelloSign:

  • Signature
  • Initials
  • Date
  • Text
  • Checkbox

Although, Text can be expanded into the subcategories of Name, Title (Job Title), and Company; the functionality is still limited. Without anything more advanced it’s not possible to use conditional logic, and unfortunately there’s nothing here for the writer to tinker with.

The SignEasy mobile application has some bugs it needs to iron out. For example, your document library can be selected while only your documents tab is visible in both. The menu-in-menu and dashboard UI can feel a little overwhelming at first if you don’t know where to find what you need. But when you do start signing with it, it’s a pretty straightforward process.

There are a few caveats that make the service a little peculiar. One such scenario is that when you begin the process for editing a document, you must choose between Sign Yourself, Sign In Person, or Request Signature. Once selected, you’re locked in. Although all of your original uploads are kept, restarting the process to accommodate this limitation is a little frustrating.

When you do decide to Sign In Person, if your plan doesn’t include multiple templates, then you’ll be required to set everything up in person while the person waits for you to do so. This is a little awkward and an odd choice given that you’ll be paying for a service at the lowest tier (still paying for it) with only one template available to you.

If you plan to sign yourself as well as others, you'll need to request signatures, and while it opens the signature process for you after you’ve finished sending the document – if you’re needing a signing order you'll have to shake the walls a little to figure it out.

SignEasy does its job and lives up to its name – it let’s you sign and it’s mostly pretty easy to use. But if you need something with some level of depth, automation, automated email reminders, document expiration, the ability to personalize individual emails per signer, and more, then you might need to weigh your options.

That wraps it up for our brief competitor review, the writer wrote it attempting to be as honest and unbiased as possible, we hope it was helpful!

Conditional Logic and how to apply it

Well, to start we need to understand what Conditional Logic is. Conditional logic is, in short, a set of conditions that trigger fields to become available or unavailable depending on what the signator has selected or entered in response to the fields previously available to him.

Let’s try to use an example, such as a job application.

If we don’t have the first school entry filled with data, there’s no need to expose the second row. Showing too many fields or possibly forgetting to mark unnecessary fields as not being required can make it difficult or confusing for our applicants and recruiters.

If we want to reveal certain fields only after some condition is met, we can choose Make this field conditional. However, if you have a large number of fields or multiple fields of the same type, it would certainly behoove you to give each field who feeds the condition a Unique Field Name. This will help upon document review and also for conditional logic when trying to sort out which field contains or does what.

In our example we’re going to use a brevity and an alpha-numeric organizational structure to our fields. School Name is always A, Degree is B, and Address is going to always be C; meanwhile, each row is numbered, and our table receives its own prefix, ‘Cond’. This level of organization when dealing with tables will help you in many areas, not just with eSignatures and conditional logic, #lifehack!

If we click on our second row and our first column (the second ‘School Name’), we can get started. If you click on Select, we'll find a list of our fields, and as you can see, it’s a good thing we named the ones we needed!

Let’s select row 1, column A (cond_1A), and you’re done. Wow! Yeah, it’s really simple. The field you’ve hidden will be hidden to the signer until something is written into field cond_1A (the first row’s ‘School Name’).

We can combine this with field requirements. For example, if our signator adds a School Name which we mark as not being required to complete the form, we can expose the Degree field which we do mark as required. Subsequently, we can do the same for the Address field.

Hidden fields which are marked as required, if still hidden, can be passed by.

Additionally, if you press the + button at the bottom, you can add more conditions to your fields. This exposes the drop down that’s grayed-out in the image above ‘Any of the following’. The possible selections are as follows:

  • Any of the following - if any of the conditions are met, the field is revealed.
  • All of the following - the field will only be revealed if every condition is met.
  • None of the following - the field will only be available if the conditions are not met (i.e. if no selection is ticked in a list of business industries, ‘other’ is available).
  • Not all of the following - the field will remain hidden in relation to a Not Or condition.

The great thing about each conditional statement is that each can be swapped around. For example, say we want to ask clients about their experience (you can do that with signNow!); if we think a particular answer is a dealbreaker (pineapple on pizza), we can hide fields based on their selection but expose it again if they answer in a favorable way in another section of the document. The possible combinations are endless and more or less up to the limits of your imagination.

So, what about the other fields we saw earlier? Let’s go over those to see what else is available, and what can be used in tandem with this magically simple-to-use Conditional Logic.

More fields, more potential

We’ve already discussed the Text Field, Text, My Signature, Signature Field, Date/Time Field, Initials Field. So what are the rest?

Let’s go in order, from what’s remaining of our list:

The Calculated Field allows you to calculate data based on inputs from the signator, and from data like the price of a product. For example, altering the price based on the quantity requested multiplied by an operator for bulk order savings. Here’s an example of what an equation might look like:

{Quantity ordered}*{Price for an item}/(2+215)*3,14

For a more detailed explanation on how to write equations to work with Calculated Fields, we have an excellent article here.

The Checkbox Field allows you to add a field which can be selected in response to a question, such as gender on a job application or the client’s preferred species of barley for ordering remotely.

Radio Button Group is a group of radio buttons which your signatories may only choose one from. The amount of buttons depends on you, and the selections can feed seamlessly into conditional logic.

To add radio button selections into conditional logic, first select the field from the list, just like earlier, and you’ll be able to choose whether the condition is met based on whether the response is or is not any of the choices available.

The Dropdown Field, like the Radio Button Group, only allows one response and has a very similar implementation in regards to conditional logic. If you’ve mastered radio buttons, this isn’t much different; it depends on which style you prefer, and how much space you have available within your document’s design.

Request Attachment allows you to have the signator upload a document or image, such as a copy of their driver’s license, diploma, or VAT information.

Today’s Date is very simple, just place it and it will display today’s date.

Finally, we have My Check allows you to put a checkmark on the document, either as a selection or as a mark of approval.

That’s it! We’ve covered every available field as of September 2020, keep an eye out for more as the platform grows based on user needs and feedback.

In Closing

We’ve discussed how to edit and sign a PDF document on both PC and mobile; we’ve touched on the competition, every field we have, conditional logic, and pineapples on pizza.

We hope you’ve learned something, and if you have any questions don’t be afraid to visit our Support page! Stay safe, stay focussed, and streamline your eSignature workflows with signNow.

David Lasher
David Lasher
Contributing Writer
November 05, 2020