How to create an electronic signature in Gmail

Despite text messaging, phone calls, and other forms of communication, millions of people still return to their inbox every single day. Email is still an important tool, especially when trying to send critical documents like contracts and proposals. Unfortunately, gathering the necessary electronic signatures to make those documents legal and valid isn’t something that email is set up to do — until now. This guide will show you how to streamline your signature workflow by using the PandaDoc for Gmail add-on to create digital signatures inside your inbox.

What is an electronic signature?

When most people think of electronic signatures, they think of the handwritten signature that they place at the bottom of the page when they sign a document. According to the Federal ESIGN Act of 2000, an electronic signature (or eSignature) is “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.” When submitting documents electronically, signers follow a similar process. Typically, a business sends out a contract or a proposal that needs to be signed. Signers submit their electronic signature and send the signed document back. Sending the document via email expedites this process and removes the hassles that accompany traditional snail mail. In many cases, submitting an image of your handwritten signature may be sufficient to digitally sign a document. However, for more important documents — like business contracts — you should consider using a digital signature instead.

Why use digital signatures?

Digital signatures are an upgraded version of electronic signatures that offer better legal protections and help to ensure document authenticity. Digital signature processes add extra layers of security to a business by providing traceable audit trails for documents and making sure that the entire signature process takes place in a secure environment. As you might expect, these added security measures can make signature requests more complicated, but they come with huge benefits for businesses in the form of defense against repudiation — the ability for a signer to deny the authenticity of a contract.

With digital signatures, you’ll always have a trail of evidence that covers when your document was created, where and when you sent the signature request, when the document was accessed by the signing party, what changes were made to the document, and much more. Using digital signatures, there can be no doubt regarding the authenticity of the document or the signer, and those protections can save businesses thousands or millions of dollars in legal disputes.

If the process to acquire an authentic digital signature sounds complicated, don’t worry. Companies like PandaDoc, DocuSign, and others are designed to make the user experience as easy and intuitive as possible.

Why create an electronic signature in Gmail?

With everything about electronic signatures in mind, where does Gmail come in? Traditionally, finding a way to securely sign documents is a process that stands apart from sending and receiving emails. Email providers aren’t designed to function as electronic signature software.  Because of these limitations, prepping a document for signature is often a very manual process.

When you receive a contract in your inbox, you’ll have to export it to your desktop, then open it up in another software tool to complete the signing process. If you’re just using an image of your signature, you might be able to open the contract as a Word document or export it to Google Drive / Google Docs for a quick image upload. Otherwise, you’ll need to upload it to an eSignature platform like PandaDoc and submit your new signature there. Then, once everything is signed, you still need to upload the document to a new email and send it back.This entire workflow can be frustrating, especially if you prepare and sign documents on a regular basis. The PandaDoc for Gmail add-on aims to help you streamline this process by allowing you to automate all of the manual drag-and-drop processes so that you can automatically start and end in the same place: Your Gmail inbox!

Let’s take a closer look at how this process works.

How to add an electronic signature in Gmail using PandaDoc

Using a Gmail account to sign and send documents might sound like a tedious and time-consuming task, but it doesn’t have to be that way! With the PandaDoc for Gmail add-on, signing and sending documents can be even easier than adding your contact information to your email signature!

Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough to guide you through your new signing process.

Step 1: Sign up for a PandaDoc account

Before you connect your Gmail account with PandaDoc, you’ll need a PandaDoc account. We offer paid and free accounts, and our Gmail add-on is also free, so you’ll always be able to use the basic tools inside PandaDoc at no charge.

You can sign up for a free account here.

Step 2: Install and connect PandaDoc for Gmail

You can connect add-ons directly from your Gmail account by clicking the plus (+) button on the right sidebar. (If you don’t see the sidebar, find the arrow in the bottom right corner and click it.) Clicking the plus (+) icon will open up the Google Workspace Marketplace. From there, you can type “PandaDoc” into the search menu. The PandaDoc Free eSignature for Email add-on will appear in the results window.

Click on the add-on and install it to the Gmail app. When you return to your Gmail inbox, you’ll see the PandaDoc logo in the right sidebar.

Once the app is installed, you’ll need to link your Google account with your PandaDoc account. Select the PandaDoc app from the sidebar and follow the instructions to authorize and authenticate your account. From now on, PandaDoc will be available to you anytime you open Gmail in your browser window.

Step 3: Select an email with an attachment

The PandaDoc for Gmail app works by allowing you to import PDF email attachments directly from Gmail into PandaDoc for preparation and signing. This eliminates the manual drag-and-drop processes that can slow down productivity and break workflows. To sign an attachment, select any email in your inbox that includes a .PDF document. When you do this, a drop-down menu will appear in the right sidebar asking which document needs to be signed.

From here, you can select the documents you need to sign and export them directly to PandaDoc to complete the signing process. Select the document you want to prepare, as well as who needs to sign the document, and click “Prepare Document.”

Step 4: Prepare your document inside PandaDoc

Once you’ve imported the document into PandaDoc, you can easily prepare it for digital signature. Using the content blocks in the right hand toolbar, drag and drop a signature field onto the document. While this field is traditionally placed at the bottom of the page, you can position it anywhere in the document that makes the most sense. Be sure to add any other fields, like a date field or a prompt for initials, as well. PandaDoc has a variety of tools to help you create and capture effective electronic signatures.

Clicking on the signature field will open the signature editor, where you can add a new signature by typing your name or signing with a mouse or stylus. When typing your name, our signature generator will allow you to pick from a variety of font styles. Select the style that works best for you, then save changes. After you complete this process, click “Finish Document” at the top of the screen and sign to complete the document. Please note that this button only appears if you are the only signer of the document. If other signers need to complete the document, you’ll need to send it to those signers via link or email before finalizing everything. Once the signing process is complete, you can close the document and return to your Gmail inbox.

Step 5: Sending your signed documents

Now that you’ve successfully signed your document, the last thing you’ll need to do is send it to your intended recipient.
To do this, click on the vertical ellipsis within the PandaDoc toolbar and select “Refresh.”

Refreshing the add-on will cause the app to update. Select “Attach PDF to Email” to add your newly signed document to your email reply. From there, all you’ll need to do is type out a new message and click send!

Get even better electronic signatures with PandaDoc

From a robust template library to mobile apps for iOS and Android, PandaDoc has an arsenal of tools to help you capture secure digital signatures. We can even help you create contracts, proposals, and brochures completely from scratch with our built-in document editor. Sign up for PandaDoc to enjoy free, unlimited eSignatures, or take your document generation and tracking to the next level with a paid subscription.

Sign up today to get started!