How to add electronic signatures in Google Docs
Google Docs is one of the world’s most popular word processors.
Right now, Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) has over 2 billion monthly active users. It’s a powerful productivity platform that comes with a set of great tools for businesses and individuals alike. Plus, the functionality provided by Gmail and Google Drive is completely free.
What you might not know is that it’s possible to add electronic signatures to your Google Docs without ever leaving your document window. As more companies and individuals opt for virtual signatures and eliminate the burdensome process of hand-signing documents, this has become a critical feature for many organizations.
Unfortunately, creating electronic signatures isn’t as easy as scribbling your name on a document. There are different ways to sign, and how you choose to do so can determine whether your signature is considered legally valid.
Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know when creating electronic signatures and e-signing documents in Google Docs.
How electronic signatures work
Strictly speaking, electronic signatures are defined by the Federal ESIGN Act of 2000 as, “an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.”
This is similar to the legal definition described in the eIDAS Regulation in Europe.
With these definitions in mind, it’s important to note that e-signatures don’t have to resemble handwritten signatures at all. Anything that is determined to represent a signer could be considered an electronic signature.
As you might expect, because everything is created and signed in a digital format, it’s easier than ever to forge signatures. Anyone with the right information could assume your identity and sign legal documents under your name.
That’s why most companies opt to use digital signatures, a more secure version of e-signatures, to ensure that the individual signing a contract is who they say they are.
During the e-signing process, digital signatures use a specialized set of standards that help to differentiate them from simple electronic signatures. This includes encryption and evidence-based authentication.
These signatures are more than an image. To execute this strategy correctly, a company may send an invitation to a signer’s email or a text code that invites them to access a document through a device that the signer controls.
While tracking these methods of access requires extra steps, they also help companies prove that signers aren’t fraudulent. For important legal documents, like contracts, these assurances are critical.
Which method should you use?
In most situations where you would be required to sign a document, digital signatures are the ideal choice.
With a clear audit trail and traceable line of ownership, digital signatures defend against repudiation — the ability for a signer to deny the validity of a contract by questioning the authenticity of the signature.
Of course, there are some exceptions. If you’re just trying to sign a school permission slip or a personal tax document like a 1040 Form that you were intending to print out and sign yourself, the added security may not be required.
It’s up to you to determine the level of security you need when signing your documents, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution when signing something that will ultimately carry legal weight.
How to add an electronic signature to Google Docs
Below, we’ll cover two basic methods to help you get your Google Docs documents signed.
If you’re unsure which method you should use, check the content above to determine whether you need a standard electronic signature or a more secure digital signature.
Without further ado, here’s a step-by-step process for signing documents inside Google Docs.
Method 1: Google Docs drawing tool
To add an e-signature to your Google Docs document, we will use the Drawing tool. Just follow the simple steps below:
1. Get started by placing your cursor in the area of the document where you want the signature to appear.
2. Select Insert on the top toolbar, then select Drawing > +New. The in-app Drawing tool will pop up in front of your Google Docs document.
3. Inside the Drawing tool, select the Line tool > Scribble, then hand-write your signature using a mouse, trackpad, or touchscreen device.
- Alternatively, you can input and format a typed signature using the Text box tool.
4. Click Save and Close.
5. The image will appear within your document. Use the handles at the edge of the image to reshape and resize your signature image to suit your needs.
You can now download the document from your Google Drive account as a PDF document or Microsoft Word document using the File and Download options.
Reusing your signature
Your hand-drawn signature will be available for later use without the need to redraw it.
This can be useful if you’re signing multiple documents or if you need to create document templates with an embedded signature.
All you’ll need to do is create a copy of the document with the signature already embedded each time you want to generate a new document.
It’s that simple!
Method 2: PandaDoc Google Docs add-on
While the draw tool offers basic functionality, you may need a more secure and legally binding solution.
This is where add-ons can help. A third-party tool like PandaDoc will automatically create a signature certificate – including the time and date of the signature – which can then be forwarded to the original sender along with the signed document.
You’ll need a PandaDoc account in order to sign using the Google Docs add-on. If you don’t have one already, you can sign up for a free account right here.
Follow these steps to add your signature to your Google Docs document with PandaDoc:
1. Install and configure the PandaDoc add-on for Google Docs using the Chrome add-on store.
- You can also access PandaDoc and other useful apps via the G Suite Marketplace by clicking on “Get Add-ons” from the Google Docs sidebar.
2. In Google Docs, select Add-ons from the menu bar. From the dropdown, select PandaDoc > Sign with PandaDoc.
3. Follow the prompts to sign in to your PandaDoc account and connect it with your Google account.
4. A dialogue box featuring a three-step signing process will appear on the right sidebar of your Google Docs document.
5. To complete the signing process, insert your own signature into the document by clicking on the signature window.
- Keep in mind that if you’re using a privacy app, your signature image may be blocked. Please remember to disable any add-ons that may interfere with your PandaDoc add-on.
- Need to create a new signature? Select the Use another signature link below the signature box.
6. When you’re finished signing, select Next: Add other people to sign and enter the email address of the individual who needs to sign next.
- You can add multiple signers during this step.
- If you are the only signer, select I just want to sign it on my own to finalize the document.
7. Once all signees have completed the document, select Finalize to complete the document, and Forward a signed copy to send the signed document to relevant recipients.
After these steps are completed, your Google doc will have the necessary signatures and secure backing it needs to stand up to legal scrutiny.
Using the PandaDoc app, you can streamline your signing process without ever leaving your document window.
Build better documents with PandaDoc
While PandaDoc allows you to build workflows inside Google apps and other software tools that you may already be familiar with, that’s not the end of the story.
As a top-performing e-signature solution, PandaDoc is equipped with a robust document editor where you can add signature fields, pricing tables, and gain access to more complex signing tools.
If you want to take document creation to the next level, sign up for a paid plan so that you can build proposals, contracts, invoices, and more inside the PandaDoc editor.