Signing documents electronically authenticate signers, so the relevant parties can confirm that there are no alterations since it was signed. Microsoft Word has an in-built system that allows the creation and addition of digital signatures to documents freely.
However, despite this capability, word still has some limitations in terms of wider functionality related to e-signatures. While this can make Microsoft a weaker platform for most organizations that can change to better platforms, many things can still be done.
In this regard, we have compiled this article to explain how to digitally sign a word document, the ins and outs of e-signatures in word, and everything you should know.
What is an electronic signature in word?
An electronic signature is basically a digital format of the traditional pen and paper signing methods. There are multiple differences between the two signatures process, which puts e-signatures at an advantageous status.
Electronic signatures make the entire signing process much faster between parties since it can be done remotely via internet-enabled devices. Also, they enable secure storage of records in the cloud preventing cases of mishandling, theft, forgery, or loss of documents.
Like the wet ink signature, e-signatures have similar legal validity in the eyes of the law. They serve as proof that the signer approved of the information contained in the document, and they can be used as an evidence in a court of law.
Benefits of using e-signatures.
For beginners, e-signatures are much faster and easier to use than traditional signatures because it doesn't need people to print, physically sign and scan the document and send it back to the sender.
Another outstanding feature of e-signatures is that they are only created once then the copy is added easily and quickly to the subsequent documents.
For individuals and companies who would want to send out signed files frequently, electronic signatures can significantly improve their workflows. Departments such as administration, sales, accounts, HR, etc., can benefit from their applications profoundly.
Electronic signatures use a mathematical algorithm t known as Public Key Infrastructure, PKI, to link the signer to the e-signed document and encrypt it in a way that it produces a new PKI if there is a change in the signed files.
This way, even a small change on the e-signed document can be detected with the time and location of the change. You can rest assured that your files are safe and get notified if there is a forgery attempt on the document.
How a digital signature works in a Microsoft word document.
Unlike traditional signatures, when digitally signing a word document, you enable secure e-document sharing and workflows, satisfy the compliance requirements of electronic documents, and ensure document authorship and integrity.
This form of electronic signature is an encrypted code of authentication attached to digital information like macros, electronic documents, and email messages. So when you digitally sign a word document, you are confirming that what is contained in the form is received from the signer and is not altered.
This builds users’ confidence in the transactions because they know the document originates from a recognized party without alterations.
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Digital signatures can be used on various document formats such as Adobe Pdf files, image files, PNGs, word documents, and JPGs.
To digitally sign a word document or any other file format, you need to have a signing certificate to serve as identity proof. For a specific document, you need a document signing certificate.
When you share an e-signed document, you send it together with the certificate and public key. The digital certificates are provided by the certification authority.
How to sign a word document electronically.
Using signature fields featured in Microsoft office documents allows businesses to reduce risk when transacting electronically and streamlining paper processes involving contracts and other agreements. An electronic signature keeps proof of the signed copy that can be verified in the future.
Signed files have a signature button below them, and they display the signature information in the info section and can be accessed by clicking the document tab in word. Follow the steps below to add a signature line;
There are two different setups to digitally sign a word document, based on the intended use. Here are they;
Method 1: Adding an invisible signature.
You can place an invisible signature on an Excel workbook, Word document, or PowerPoint presentation. Instead of appearing on the document, the signed file will only show a signature icon at the bottom of the window to show that it is signed. The relevant parties can click the icon and get signature details.
Method 2: adding a visible signature.
You can also have a visible signature on a word document, Excel worksheet, or PowerPoint presentation. This appears on the document body together with a small icon below the window to show that the file is signed and display signature information.
Users can click the icon or double-click on the signature to find the signature information in the info section.
Why do you need to switch from using a word doc for electronic signatures?
Microsoft word is not made to be used as an electronic signature, and though it can be used to digitally add a sign, there are differences in functionality limiting its potential benefits.
The biggest challenge of using a word doc is that it is not inclusive in nature. For instance, you cannot use a word document to sign files sent in pdf or ppt form. Software like FillAnyPdf with an e-signature functionality is comprehensive with several types of files such as word, pdf, jpg, and xls, among others.
Another limitation is that you need to consider the customers’ journey when they digitally sign a word document. Basically, these clients should review the file, confirm whether they are interested, sign it personally, and send it back.
As a company or business owner, your aim should be to ensure the signing process is as streamlined and easy as possible.
This can only be achieved when you have data-backed insights that tell you where and how your recipients interacted with the documents. Unfortunately, this cannot be done with word documents.
Another big challenge of the word document is the speed. Comparatively, it is not the fastest method to sign documents. The issue is, anytime you want to place e-signatures in word, you have to create a digital ID.
When you select on a specific file to sign, a dialog box appears. For other users, the dialog box redirects them to Microsoft help, where they get instructions for creating a digital ID. Whereas for some users, you need to manually access the Microsoft website to get a digital ID from their partners.
You should note that these Microsoft partners will charge you some money to give you a digital ID. So, generally, Microsoft word is not the easiest and most effortless option when digitally signing a document.
Alternative options for signing a word document.
Although you can digitally sign a word document, it doesn’t mean it is a must. There are a lot of alternatives for signing a word document available online, such as FillAnyPdf and PandaDoc e-signing solutions.
Besides allowing you to collect as many signatures as you want in a few minutes, these e-signature platforms enable the tracking of documents. Once you send out contracts, proposals, or sign a file to your clients, you immediately get a notification once they receive and open them.
Additionally, you can see the time they spent on the file and trace if it was forwarded or shared with different people. What's more, some robust software has a live chat integration that allows real-time conversation between users.
Choosing a strong and dedicated e-signing vendor or platform means that the chances of human errors are almost non-existence. The collection of signatures is as simple as creating multiple signature fields, and all the signatures are authenticated by the platform you are using.
This, therefore, ensures that neither you nor your partners will ever worry about expired digital certificates.
Although Microsoft word is one of the popular text processing tools for many, it is not the best for electronic signatures. But despite the challenges you can experience when collecting e-signatures, you can still digitally sign a word document and make it legally binding.
If you are considering placing e-signatures in word, follow the information shared in this article. But for a more streamlined, easy, and faster digital signature implementation, choose an ideal e-signature platform based on your needs.