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How to create an e-signature in Acrobat X for use in Reader

Learn how to create an e-signature field in Acrobat X that can be signed using the free Reader.

By October 10, 2010


In this tutorial, learn how to create an e-signature field in Acrobat X that can be signed using the free Reader.
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How to create an e-signature in Acrobat X for use in Reader

Annamarie LukesOctober 10, 2010

Adobe Reader X continues to offer the digital signature features found in previous versions, and it provides advancements in digital signature security.

Reader X is now compatible with the PDF Advanced Electronic Signature Standard (PADES).

Reader X also has the capability to download certificates from the Adobe Approved Trust List which offers a higher assurance of certificate integrity.

But, if all you want to do is simulate a simple handwritten signature, Reader X allows you to do that as well.

In this tutorial I will cover the two methods of applying signatures to PDF files in Reader: digital signatures and the new Apply Ink Signature tool.

The most important thing to remember about using signatures in Reader is that the PDF file has to be enabled before signatures will work.

So your three warning signs that a PDF file has not been enabled are; right here - if it says you cannot save data typed into this form.

Second warning sign would be if you look over here and there is nothing that says "tools", and the third warning sign would be if you go to a signature, click in it and nothing happens.

I'm going to jump off the main topic for just a second to show how to enable usage rights in Adobe Reader when you're in Adobe Acrobat X Pro.

So, you just go to the File menu > Save As > Reader Extended PDF > Enable Additional Features.

Select that, and then you can see here that it says it will allow you then in Adobe Reader to sign an existing signature field.

Click Save Now and it's done.

Now I am back over in Adobe Reader X with my newly enabled form open and you can see that it says that I can save data typed into this form and I have a Tools option here.

So I click on Tools and the first thing we're going to look at is Apply Ink Signature.

So I click on that and then anywhere in the document I can just hand write a little signature.

Of course the more manual dexterity you have, the better the signature is going to come out looking.

Now let's take a look at the more formal digital signature capabilities within Adobe Reader that actually help protect the integrity of the document.

First if someone has not provided signature fields within a document, you can still use a digital signature by going again under the tools menu, selecting Place Signature, and it tells you to click and drag an area where you want the signature to appear.

So, you select OK and then just draw out a box where you want to put a signature.

Since this is the first time I will be signing anything in Adobe Reader, I have to make a new digital ID for myself.

So I select New Digital ID, click Next and then it requires an email address so I will quickly key in one here and then go to Next and now I have to enter a password - Adobe Reader likes long complex passwords but I am just going to key in one that I think I will be able to remember, then I have to confirm it, and then click Finish.

Now I am ready to sign my document.

I have to enter my password so that Reader knows it's me, and then down here I have some additional signature information I can include if I want.

So I have a Location and Contact Info.

I can give a Reason for signing the document.

I can just key in on top of this anything I want to write or I can select one of the preloaded reasons.

I'll just say I am approving this document and then I click Sign.

Then I have to save this document so I am going to give it a new name "Signed" and then the rest of the name and click Save.

Now you can see my signature here.

Let me zoom in a little bit on that for you.

So you can see my name, the reason I signed the document, location, date and time that I signed and if I roll over it will tell me this is a valid signature.

If I open up the Signature panel on the left, I can get more information about any signatures I have in my PDF.

When I twirl down here, I can see that the signature is valid, that the document has NOT been modified since the signature was applied and I can see further signature details.

I can also see that I have a couple of unsigned signature fields so I can go back in and sign those if I think I need to.

The final way to apply a signature in Adobe Reader is to click in an existing signature field.

The Sign Document dialog box comes up and the ID that I just set up comes up but let's take a look at some of the other options you have.

If you have an existing digital ID, you can import it from a file, from a server or from a device that you have connected to your computer - but let's just go back and use the one that I just set up.

Again I have to enter my password to prove that it's me, and let's do something a little bit different with the appearance this time.

Instead of Standard Text let's choose Create New Appearance.

I'm going to import a graphic of my actual signature so that it looks more like a handwritten signature.

First I have to title it then I have to import my graphic.

I will import it from a file and there it is.

Click OK, click OK again and then click Sign.

I have to save it again so I will add "Signed" to the beginning of that and there we go.

It looks like a handwritten signature but it still maintains all the properties of a digital signature.

At any point in the future I can come back to a signature in a document and right click on it (or ctrl-click on it on a Mac) and I can clear the signature, validate it, if the document has been modified since the time that I signed it, I can ask to see the version of the document that was actually signed or I can take a look at signature properties.

One final tip; if you go to Edit>Protection>Security Settings, you can take a look at any digital IDs that you have set up there, remove them, add new ones, look at usage options and so on.

You can find more information on digital signatures at

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Acrobat X

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Sign and Send PDFs

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