Why can’t I digitally sign a PDF

There could be several issues preventing you from successfully signing a PDF file.

These range from the lack of necessary editing rights to the document lacking the appropriate fields. 

So if you are frustrated because for the umpteenth time you can’t put the signature in that document, please take a breather.

Relax. Then follow the steps below to solve your problem.

1. Check permissions

The PDF document could be in read-only mode.

This means it is locked and any changes are forbidden. To see its status, do the following.


Read mode in Windows before digitally sign

Right click the file to see a drop-down menu.

Choose the “Properties” tab there, and a small window will appear.

The “Read only” property is at the bottom. Remove the tick if it’s there to get full access to the file.


Read mode on Mac before digitally sign

Open Finder and click on your file.

Select “Properties” from the menu, and a window will appear.

At its bottom, you will see the “Sharing and permissions” section (click the arrow icon if it isn’t opened by default).

You will see a table with usernames and their privileges regarding this file.

If yours aren’t “Read and write,” click the menu icon near your username to change them.

2. Check for signature fields

Even when there are appropriate lines for a name and autograph, there is a chance that your document doesn’t have any fields for a digital signature. In this case, you can add it.

With PandaDoc:

1. Log in to your PandaDoc account.

Upload a new PDF by selecting New Document > Upload or select an existing file from the Documents tab on the right of the screen.

Upload PDF to your PandaDoc account

2. Open the Content >Fields tab.

Drag the Signature Field to the relevant place in the PDF.

Drag Esignature field to PDF in PandaDoc

3. Double click on your new field and follow the on-screen prompts to add your signature.

Sign your PDF with PandaDoc

With Adobe Acrobat:

1. Open your document in Adobe Acrobat.

2. Click the Tools tab and scroll down to the Forms and Certificates section.

Select Open from the Certificates dropdown menu.

Open PDF in Acrobat

3. Click on Digitally Sign from the new options bar.

Digitally sign PDF in Acrobat

4. Select the digital signature you want to use and click Continue.

If you have not yet added a digital signature certificate to Adobe Acrobat, select Configure New Digital ID and follow the on-screen prompts.

Select digital signature in Acrobat

5. Configure the appearance of the signature and select Sign.

Signed PDF in Acrobat

3. Restart your application

Sometimes the problem is just a temporary glitch.

Try closing the application you are using to sign and reopening it again. This can sometimes solve the problem. 

4. Check for compliance

This is a more complex issue. Sometimes, you can sign PDF, but the signature itself won’t necessarily hold up in court.

This depends on the software you use for this purpose.

The USA, Canada, EU, and other countries and regions have implemented laws like eIDAS and ESIGN to set the criteria governing the legality of electronic signatures.

They include:

  • Intent to sign and consent to do so
  • Association of the signature with the record
  • Direct link between the signature and the person signing it
  • Electronic records of the signed documents and on-demand paper copies of them

PandaDoc, for example, is compliant with these acts, but your specific software might not be. 

Another nuance worth noting is that some documents have to be signed physically.

These include wills, divorce papers, notices of eviction or repossession, etc.


If you are having trouble signing a PDF, try checking for permissions, see whether the document has the appropriate signature fields, and restart your PDF editor. 

But if the existing signature field is simply not accessible (or legal), consider switching to PandaDoc for all your signing needs, and specifically PDFPlatform to cover anything to do with PDFs — and get peace of mind while you do!

Sign up for a 14-days trial today!