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Electronic Signature (All You Need to Know Guide)

Industry

A lot of questions come up about the use of electronic signature.

Many people wonder:

How legitimate are they?

How they can use them?

Where they can be used?

Whether an e-signature is secure?

Those are just some of the issues (and a lot more) that this guide will address.

What Is an Electronic Signature?

Cartoon pens in a cup

This is electronic data entered into an electronic document to signify the consent of the signatory. This data needs to correspond to other electronic information associated with the signatory for it to be legally binding. An e-signature could be the name of a signatory typed into a section of the document, but the following requirements have to be met:

E-Signature Uses

A report by Markets and Markets reveals over 30% annual growth of the e-signature trends with an estimated growth of $2.02 billion in 2020. This makes it one of the technological trends that cannot be ignored. But it is much more than just figures, the benefits of using an online signature justify the popularity it gains every year. Take a look at some of them:

Person with a tablet making an electronic signature

How to Make a Signature

How to make a signature is one of the frequently asked questions on this subject. Many people imagine it is a complex procedure however, it can be done in 4 easy ways:

  1. You can use the cursor of your PC to create your signature.
  2. You can use your finger or a stylus to write it on a touch screen.
  3. You can upload a picture of your signature onto a document.
  4. You can type your name into the signature box.

How to add electronic signature in different programs like Word or PDF may vary a little. Let us look at some of the common programs.

How to Add Signature in PDF

  1. Open the document as a PDF.
  2. Go to the Tools pane and click "Fill and Sign."
  3. Click on "Sign" and choose "Add Signature."
  4. When the popup appears, choose your preferred method to add signature to PDF.

How to Add Signature in Word?

  1. Open the document in Microsoft Word and place the cursor where you want your signature to be.
  2. Click on "Insert" and then choose "signature line."
  3. A setup box will appear and you will have to fill in the details.
  4. Right-click the signature box and choose to insert a signature in Word: you can type your name, upload a saved signature, or draw it on a touch screen.

Removing a Signature in Word

Removing an electronic signature in Word is as easy as right-clicking on the signature line, choose remove signature and confirm by clicking yes.

You can also click the arrow next to the signature which will produce the option to remove signature and you can click on it.

How to Collect E-Signatures from Others?

In some circumstances, you need to have more than just one signature on a document. It is still possible to collect more than one e-signature and the process is simpler than using paper documents.

To be able to insert signature in Word or any other program, you have to create the fields for the other signatures and then email the document to the signatories so that they can follow the steps listed above to append their signature. With programs like word, the process may be a bit longer than with software that has been created specifically to support document sharing or apps intended to help sign documents online.

Sometimes though, the recipient may lose track of the email that they are supposed to sign. This will create a need for resending the document. By resending the email, the recipient can open the email and then insert their signature in the document.

The more convenient and efficient way to collect signatures is automated e-signature workflow. This is an automated process where document generation software works together with the signature software so that as part of the document generation process, the document is emailed to the signatories automatically and they receive a notification to sign. This can be done repeatedly for any document that requires signing.

How to Enter an Electronic Signature Online?

Cartoon password bar

The process of entering an esignature online is much easier than using Word or PDF. There are free apps that enable a user to sign a document in under two minutes. The free electronic signature provides the same options as other software to enter the signature. The electronic signature app encrypts the information to make sure that the document is not compromised.

To append a signature online, you simply need to drag and drop the document you want to sign in to the app and the signature field will automatically be entered on the document. You can then choose how you want to sign the document, either using your finger on a touch screen, uploading image file of the signature, or using the cursor. You can also type your name into the section. Most of these apps will provide instructions that make it easy to do it even for a first-timer.

Difference Between an E-Signature and Digital Signature

Many people mistakenly use the two terms interchangeably, but they are quite different. An e-signature is a mark, writing, or even sound that indicates an individual's consent to sign an agreement. A digital signature on the other hand is used to authenticate the signature. It is a complex algorithm used to encrypt the signature.

A digital sign uses PKI technology to verify that a signature belongs to a specific individual. The PKI is med functional using digital certificates that are issued both privately and publicly. Digital signatures help to maintain the authenticity of a signature and prove that the person signing a document is really the intended signatory not someone with their key. Even when you use a free app, you will get a free digital signature.

Cartoon clouds with a lock in one

Types of E-Signs

Apart from the usual signature that most people are used to, there are other types of e signatures that are becoming common. These signatures still have legal regulations. The regulations include evidence that the signatory intended to sign and give their consent, there should be a trail that can be audited to show that is their signature and the data needs to be associated with the document. These signatures include:

Biometric Signature: This uses unique body features to identify an individual. The common biometric signatures include thumbprint, eye scan, and facial recognition.

BioSig-ID: This uses software to study the movement of an individual as they enter a 4-digit password using a stylus or a mouse. Each individual will have unique hand movements that will authenticate the signature.

Click to Sign: Here the person can simply click on a signature block and that will prove their consent. There should however be evidence they are aware of what they are doing and that they are indeed the intended signatory.

Are E-Signatures Legal?

For many people thinking of using esigns for the first time, it is natural that they wonder: are electronic signatures legal? Well, the answer to that may depend on the country you live. For America, President Bill Clinton signed the E-SIGN Bill in June 2000, and that made an E-signature a legal signature. This is also supported by the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act.

Within the act are some requirements to be met for an e-signature to be recognized in a court of law or when carrying out a transaction and any other use of the signature. These requirements include:

Intent: It should be clear that the person intended to sign and had the option not to sign but chose to sign.

Consent: The person signing agreed to use this method of signing instead of signing on paper.

Attribution: There should be attribution of the signature connecting the person signing to that signature. For example, the command request signature in some apps will automatically add fields for email address, phone number, and other information that can be associated with the signatory. At times the IP address can be traced within the digital signature. Attribution is a way of authenticating a signature because It is assumed you are the only one with access to your email password or mobile phone so a private code can be sent to either of the 2.

Associate: The signature must be associated with the document. It should be evident that the signature was provided with the knowledge that the signature creator was agreeing to the content of the document.

These four conditions may seem hard to implement for an individual who is new to this, but most of the time, the signature maker will take care of that. Programs like Adobe Acrobat and other signature software are already designed to meet these requirements as they prompt a user to sign.

If you want to find out if these signatures are legally binding outside the US, you may need to run a country by country search, although the EU has similar acts governing them.

Should They be Consistent with Paper Signatures?

Person sitting in front of a laptop

This is something many people wonder about. The simple answer is No. As stated above, the requirements for a signature to be legally binding do not include consistency. An electronic signature generator may apply a simple checkbox for the user to give their consent and then apply the other requirements to make that tick legally recognized as a signature while another may use a thumbprint.

When Can You Use an E-Sign?

In most situations, it is fine to use an electronic sign, but there are times when it would be best to use the old-fashioned paper and pen signature. In a situation like signing a birth certificate or adoption papers, it may be inconvenient to send signature requests to multiple witnesses who are probably right there in the room.

Also, not everyone would feel comfortable using this method which would make the signature invalid if they are forced to sign electronically.

Different Applications of ESigns

Technology is everywhere and the internet links the entire globe. This would make it appropriate for just about every industry to adopt these signatures. However, here are some common utilization of them.

Banking

Online banking has become popular because of its convenience. Banks have introduced new products like the signature loan which simply depends on the signature of an applicant to grant them a loan. Banks can simply add esignature text tags that will make it easier to identify the client being granted a loan and they can sign from the comfort of their home and get the loan they need.

Health

The health industry needs to gain consent from different people to attend to them, offer services under insurance cover as well as share information with patients and doctors. Running around with paper documents to have them signed can take up precious time. Working with an e-signature partner, however, will make it easier to get documents signed and enable the staff to carry out life-saving duties instead of worrying about consent and insurance.

Cartoon tree
Social Action

When rallying to support social action or petitioning government. It is much faster to do signatures online. Document automation software can be used to create an online petition and email it to lots of recipients to append a pdf signature in support of the petition. This has been done in many states as lobbyists try to influence change. It is more convenient than knocking on doors.

E-commerce

E-commerce businesses transcend distance, so it is not uncommon to carry out business with clients across continents. There is still a need to get the consent of a client and to bind them contractually to the terms of service being provided. This means that they should sign a contract with the business. An electronic sign is the best option to achieve this. In this case, however, it is much more than a free e signature attached to a document. A digital signature and certificate will also be used to verify the user understands the terms of the contract and the information they share is encrypted and kept private.

E-Signatures Make Signing Easier

Two cartoon people

Elderly and disabled people may not be physically capable of signing paper documents. For example, difficulty seeing, weak and painful joints that hinder writing, and inability to go to government offices to sign documents. It is much easier if they can create a signature and send it online.

There are many industries that can benefit from using this technology. The best part is you can even have a free electronic-signature for personal use not just as a business. Thousands of papers are being produced every day, and by adopting paperless signatures, we do not just make business efficient, we save the planet as well.

Tags Start & End

Tags Can Start & End Anywhere

Appendix B

.NET code for multi-page image output

Appendix A

Java code for multi-page image output

Data Bin Search

The Data Bin can now be searched to find a table, column, node or other piece of data without scrolling through it all.

Shrink to Fit

This will shrink the contents of a cell until it fits the defined cell size.

Time Zone Conversion

A new Windward macro has been added to help with converting dates and times from UTC time to the local time zone.

Image Output Format

New image output formats added.

PostScript Output Format

PostScript, commonly used with printers and printing companies, has been added as an additional output format.

New and Improved Datasets (Designer, Java Engine, .NET Engine)

Datasets have been re-written from scratch to be more powerful and easier to use.

Stored Procedure Wizard (Designer)

This works for all tag types that are connected to a SQL-based data source (Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, or DB2).

Boolean Conditional Wizard (Designer)

Before, conditional statements could only be written manually. Now they can also be built using our intuitive Wizard interface.

Reorganized Ribbon

The ribbon menus have been re-organized and consolidated to improve the report design workflow.

XPath 2.0 as Data Source

Adds various capabilities such as inequalities,descending sort, joins, and other functions.

SQL Select Debugger

SQL Select  Debugger

  • The look and feel was improved
  • Stored Procedure Wizard
  • Improved Exceptions pane

Tag Editor/Tag Selector

Added a Query tab as a field for typing or pasting in a select statement

  • Color Coding of Keywords
  • TypeAhead
  • Evaluate is now "Preview"

Rename a Datasource

All tags using that Data source will be automatically updated with that name.

Connecting to a Data Source

New single interface to replace 2 separate dialog boxes

Tag Tree

Displays of all the tags in the template, structured as they are placed in the template. This provides a simple & intuitive way to see the structure of your template. Also provides the capability to go to any tag and/or see the properties of any tag.

Added Javelin into the RESTful Engine

Support for Google Application Engine Integration

The ability to integrate the Windward Engine into Google’s cloud computing platform for developing and hosting web applications dubbed Google Applications Engine (GAE).

Additional Refinement for HTML Output

  • Improved indentation for ordered and unordered lists
  • Better handling of template header and footer images
  • Better handling for background images and colors

Redesigned PDF Output Support

This new  integration will allow for processing of complex scripts and bi-directional  text such as Arabic.  Your PDF output  will be much tighter and more closely match your template, and we’ll be able  to respond rapidly to PDF requests and fixes.

PowerPoint Support

Includes support for new ForEach and slide break handling, table header row repeat across slide breaks, and native Microsoft support for charts and images.

Tags are Color Coded

Tags are color coded in the template by type, making it easy to visually identify them.

Increased Performance

Version 13’s core code has been reworked and optimized to offer a reduced memory footprint, faster PDF generation and full documentation of supported features and limitations in the specifications for DOCX, XLSX and PPTX.

Advanced Image Properties

Documents can include advanced Word image properties such as shadows, borders, and styles.

Improved HTML Output

Windward has updated HTML output to reflect changing HTML standards.

Version 13 New Data Sources

Windward now works with a slew of new datasources: MongoDB, JSON, Cassandra, OData, Salesforce.com

Generate Code

The Generate Code tool in the designer allows you to open an existing template and, with a click of a button, automatically create a window with the code needed to run your current template with all data sources and variables. Simply copy this code and paste into your application's code in the appropriate place. You now have Windward integrated into your application.

You only need to do this once. You do not do this for each template. Instead, where it has explicit files for the template and output, change that to parameters you pass to this code. Same for the parameters passed to Windward. This example uses explicit values to show you what to substitute in where.

Pivot Tables Adjusted in Output

Any pivot tables in an XLSX template are carried over to the XLSX output. The ranges in the pivot ranges are adjusted to match the generated output. So your final XLSX will have pivot tables set as expected in the generated file.

This makes creating an XLSX workbook with pivot tables trivial.

Imported Template Can be Set to Match the Parent Styles

In an imported sub-template, if its properties for a style (ex. Normal) differ from the parent template's properties for the style, the use in the sub-template can be set to either use the properties in the sub-template, or the properties in the parent.

You set to retain when you don't want the child template's styling to change when imported. You set to use the parent when you want the styling of the imported template to match the styling in the parent.

Any explicit styling is always retained. This only impacts styling set by styles.

Tags can be Placed in Text Boxes

Tags can be placed in text boxes. Including linked text boxes. This gives you the ability to set the text in a textbox from your data.

Tags can be Placed in Shapes & Smart Art

Tags can be placed in shapes & smart art. This gives you the ability to set the text in a shape from your data.

HTML Output Supports Embedded Images

When generating HTML output, the engine can either write bitmaps as distinct files the generate HTML references, or it can embed the images in the HTML providing a single file for the output.

Footnotes & Endnotes can Have Tags

You can place tags in pretty much any part of a template, including in footnotes & endnotes.

Document Locking Supported in DOCX & XLSX

Any parts of a DOCX or XLSX (PowerPoint does not support this) file that are locked in the template, will be locked the same in the output.

Specify Font Substitution

If a font used in the template does not exist on the server generating a report, the font to substitute can be specified.
In addition, if a glyph to be rendered does not exist in the font specified, you can specify the replacement font. This can be set distinctly for European, Bi-Directional, and Far East fonts.

Process Multiple Datasources Simultaneously

If you need this - it's essential. And if you don't need it, it's irrelevant.

Windward enables you to build a document by applying multiple datasources to the template simultaneously. When Windward is merging the data into a template, it processes the template by handling each tag in order, and each tag pulls from different datasources. (As opposed to processing all of one datasource, then processing the next.)

This allows the select tag to use data from another datasource in its select. For example, if you are pulling customer information from one data source, you can then pull data from the sales datasource using the customer ID of the customer presently processing to pull the sales information for that customer. If you're interested in patching together your data from multiple datasources, read this post on our blog.

Genesis Abel

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Genesis Abel

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