How to do an electronic signature on a Mac

Apple Macs are one of many popular digital devices used during the electronic signature process.

Because most Macs run macOS (formerly OSX), the signing process is generally similar whether you’re adding signatures to PDF forms or inserting signatures through Apple Pages or Microsoft Word.

However, while it’s possible to add signatures with Apple apps and tools, there are potential legal ramifications when you sign documents in this way.

Let’s take a quick look at how e-signatures work, whether creating an electronic signature on your Macbook is the best idea, and what other alternatives are available to you.

What is an electronic signature?

Briefly, some electronic signatures are more than just a digital version of your handwritten signature.

At a fundamental level, most legal definitions define an electronic signature as a “sound, symbol, or process” that is logically associated with a contract and the person who intends to sign it.

From a legal perspective, this is key because of how signatures are determined to be valid around the world.

Online signatures

When you create an electronic signature on your Mac, this is exactly what you’re creating.  Simply put, this is an electronic version of your handwritten signature.

It can be created using a mouse, trackpad, or stylus and can be inserted into a document using the native tools on your Mac.

In many situations, this kind of signature will serve its intended purpose and will accurately represent that you have signed a document.

However, in most cases, this type of signature does not carry the same legal weight as your handwritten signature when signed to a printed document.  While they may look the same, a physical version of your handwritten signature is considered more authentic and realistic.

When signing documents for legal or business purposes, we recommend using more secure formats for additional protection.

Digital signatures

Digital signatures use additional technology to ensure that the document is authentic and the parties signing it can be identified.  These signatures are considered equivalent to or better than traditional, handwritten signatures.

For businesses and legal documents, this additional layer of security provides defense against repudiation, the ability to deny the validity of a document or contract.

Most digital signatures rely on an audit trail to ensure that the person who signs the document is the intended signer.  E-signature companies like PandaDoc try to ensure this by sending emails or generating secure links intended for specific signers.

If you’re using the Preview app or another native software tool to sign PDF documents, those signed documents may lack the required audit trails to maintain legal standing.

Digital signatures are a good fit for documents such as business agreements or contracts that may be challenged in a legal setting.

What software tools can I use to create an electronic signature on a Mac? 

In macOS Big Sur and previous versions of OSX, it’s possible to create signatures on your Mac using a wide variety of apps.

Let’s take a look at a few key software tools that you can access when it’s time to sign your documents.

Preview

Apple’s support documentation changes depending on your version of macOS.  Below, you’ll find the rough steps you need to fill out and sign PDF forms using Preview, but be sure to check the support documentation for additional updates.

  1. Open Preview on your Mac and select the document or PDF file that you want to sign.
  2. Click on the Show Markup Toolbar button to reveal the Markup Toolbar.  Then, click the Sign button.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to create your signature using the trackpad, your iPhone or iPad, or by holding up a signed piece of white paper to your camera.
  4. Once the signature is captured, select it from the Sign drop-down menu and add it to the document.  From there, you can resize your signature by dragging on the adjustment handles.

Quick note:  If you have iCloud Drive enabled, your electronic signature will be available on your other Mac computers!

Apple Pages

Natively, Apple’s Pages doesn’t support any kind of electronic signature functionality, but it’s still possible to insert your signature as an image via Pages.

  1. Open Preview using any document with white space in the margins.  The document itself isn’t important; you just need a white background.
  2. Insert your existing signature into the document (or create a new signature by following the steps in the previous section) and drag that signature into the margins.
  3. Take a screenshot of your signature by pressing [CMD + Shift + 4].  This is the keyboard shortcut that allows you to capture a portion of your screen.  Drag the crosshairs around your signature to capture the image.
  4. Delete the image from your Preview document and close the app.
  5. Open Pages and drag the image of your signature into the document.  Resize to fit.

Microsoft Word

Though Microsoft Word isn’t native to the Mac, it’s commonly used to sign Word documents.  Unfortunately, Word offers many digital signature features to Windows users, these tools unavailable for Mac users with Office 365.

Using Word on a Mac, you’ll be able to insert your signature as an image, but you won’t be able to generate secure electronic signatures or digital certificates in the same way you would if you were using a PC.

  1. Open Preview using any document with white space in the margins.  The document itself isn’t important; you just need a white background.
  2. Insert your existing signature into the document (or create a new signature by following the steps in the “Preview” section of this document) and drag that signature into the margins.
  3. Take a screenshot of your signature by pressing [CMD + Shift + 4].  This is the keyboard shortcut that allows you to capture a portion of your screen.  Drag the crosshairs around your signature to capture the image.
  4. Delete the image from your Preview document and close the app.
  5. In Microsoft Word, open the document that requires your electronic signature.
  6. In the taskbar, select Images > Picture > Picture from File.  In the selection window, select your signature and load it into your Word document.
  7. Using the image box, adjust the size of your signature, and drag it to the appropriate location.

CreateMySignature

If you’re looking for a tool that you can use regardless of which Mac you own, CreateMySignature is a free online tool that can help.

With CreateMySignature, you don’t need a piece of paper or a download from the App Store.

  1. Head to CreateMySignature.com
  2. Select “Draw signature” if you need a downloadable image for use in Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or other software tools.
  3. Draw your signature using your mouse or trackpad.  For even greater control, you could use your finger or stylus by accessing the website via mobile device (iOS, iPadOS, or Android) and taking advantage of the device touchscreen.
  4. Click on “Save.”
  5. Click “Download” to download your new signature.

If you need to sign a PDF, select “Sign PDF document” and follow the workflow instructions to upload and sign your document.  (This process is similar to the “Draw signature” workflow above.)  From there, you can download your newly signed document!

Create secure electronic signatures on your Mac using PandaDoc

Every tool that we’ve discussed so far can help you insert signatures into your documents.

But, whether you use Preview or CreateMySignature to upload your sign off on a document, documents signed in this way may lack the security and authentication necessary to stand up to legal scrutiny.

If you need to ensure authenticity when signing documents, take the extra step, and use a dedicated platform like PandaDoc to create electronic signatures on your Mac.

Our free plan will allow you to upload PDFs and sign contracts while providing the necessary documentation to prove that your documents are legal and valid.

Click here to begin your signing process with PandaDoc!