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Securely gather signatures anytime, anywhere — without the trouble of messy paperwork.

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Eliminate manual tasks with Jform Sign’s automation features.

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Create and customize your ideal form once and send it as many times as you need. Just add your desired form fields, assign signer roles, and collect signatures with ease. Save time with our flexible build-and-send document structure.

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A Brief Guide to Electronic Signatures

What is an electronic signature?

An introduction to electronic signatures

An electronic signature, or e-signature, is the digital equivalent of a handwritten signature that indicates the acceptance of an agreement, contract, or other document. Electronic signature technology allows users to approve or certify documents without having to sign a physical piece of paper.

E-signatures are as legally binding as any other type of signature in many countries. They also allow you to avoid the hassle of passing paper documents from one person to the next. As a modern approach to the signing process, e-signatures are now used in all kinds of documents worldwide.

Types of electronic signatures

There are several ways to add signatures to digital documents, from scanning and uploading an image of a handwritten signature to using specific e-signature software. With services like Jform Sign, users can securely sign documents with just one click.

There are four basic types of electronic signatures: click-to-sign, simple e-signatures (SESs), advanced e-signatures (AdESs), and qualified e-signatures (QESs). Each has its own advantages and use cases, so it’s important to know which situations they work best for.

  • Click-to-sign
    Click-to-sign electronic signatures can be completed with just the click of a button. Typically, a user will create a signature that is stored for future use by a software platform, or the platform will generate a signature for them. Then, as the user moves through a document, they can click a button to insert their legally binding signature where needed.
  • Simple electronic signatures
    Simple e-signatures (SESs) are the most widely used because they don’t involve any type of advanced identity verification and can be as basic as a name or initials typed in a document. They can be used on all kinds of documents, from internal employment agreements to attendance sheets to permission slips.
  • Advanced electronic signatures
    Advanced e-signatures (AdESs), on the other hand, implement a higher level of identity verification, as they are usually transmitted through e-signature software that can provide an audit trail. They are certified by a certificate authority (CA), an entity that issues and stores unique digital certificates to confirm a person’s identity.
  • Qualified electronic signatures
    A qualified electronic signature (QES) is the most secure form of electronic signature and meets the requirements outlined in the European Union’s electronic Identification, Authentication and Trust Services (eIDAS) regulation. This type of e-signature verifies the signer’s identity through a digital certificate. As an additional step, the signer’s identity is confirmed face-to-face — either online (via video) or in person.

The evolution of electronic signatures

While the general public has only become familiar with electronic signatures in the past 20 years, the technology has been developing for much longer than that. The concept of electronic signatures was first introduced in 1976 by American cryptologists Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman in a research paper titled “New Directions in Cryptography,” which presented forward-thinking ideas like public-key cryptography and digital signatures. Then, in 1977, Ronald Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Len Adleman invented a cryptosystem called the RSA algorithm that was the first technology to transmit a signature through an electronic message.

The first widely marketed software to offer digital signatures broke onto the scene in the late 1980s, followed by the first instance of embedding digital signatures into PDFs in 1999. In 2000, U.S. President Bill Clinton passed the Electronic Signature in Global and National Commerce (E-sign) Act, which made digital signatures legally binding.

In 2008, ISO 32000 made the PDF a standard electronic document format and included guidance on how digital signatures in PDFs can be used to verify a signer’s identity. Since then, PDFs have been the primary tool for signing documents online, and e-signature technology has taken hold around the globe.

Electronic signature vs digital signature vs wet signature

While most people know a wet signature from an online signature, the difference between an electronic signature and a digital signature is a little tougher to spot.

Wet signatures have been used for thousands of years. A wet signature refers to a pen-and-ink signature on a paper document. Historically, it was one of the only ways to create a binding document. Wet signatures are still required for certain sensitive documents, such as court orders, wills, and trusts.

The electronic signature, a generic term for any signature that is transmitted electronically, emerged alongside computer technology. E-signatures work great for documents that don’t require stringent security measures, and they can be as simple as a typed name or initials in a digital document.

However, when you’re working with a document that is covered by privacy regulations or other specific laws, you’ll want to use a digital signature. A digital signature uses specialized features and backend tools like encryption and audit trail capabilities to ensure that the signer’s identity is properly authenticated and the document has not been altered. Digital signatures work best for government, legal, and healthcare documents, like tax and insurance forms.

There are also subtypes of digital signatures, such as cloud signatures. With cloud signatures, the digital certificate used to authenticate the signature is stored in the cloud. These signatures provide much more flexibility because they allow users to sign on any device.

The legality of electronic signatures

A number of countries have enacted specific legislation to recognize the validity of e-signatures. In the United States, electronic signatures are legally binding under the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (E-Sign) Act. Almost any document that can be signed by hand may also be signed digitally in the United States, with the exception of certain governmental or legal documents that still require wet signatures. Versions of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) govern e-signature specifications in different states, and U.S. territories have their own e-signature laws as well.

E-signatures are also considered legally binding in Australia under both the Electronic Transactions Act (ETA) of 1999 and the Electronic Transactions Regulations 2000 (ETR); in the European Union and U.K. under eIDAS; in Canada under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), and in New Zealand under the Contract and Commercial Law Act (CCLA).

These are just a few examples of countries with e-signature laws. Research local regulations to ensure that e-signatures are legally binding in a specific country.

How secure is an electronic signature?

Electronic signatures are extremely secure — in fact, they’re generally more secure than pen-and-paper signatures. Wet signatures can be forged, and paper documents can be lost, damaged, or destroyed over time. Electronic signature software, on the other hand, is supported by advanced security practices such as encryption, digital certificates, and cryptographic algorithms that record audit trails and prevent signature tampering. Unlike paper documents, files with electronic signatures can be archived and kept safely for as long as needed without the risk of being damaged or lost.

How do electronic signatures work?

An electronic signature, or e-signature, is a digital form of a traditional ink signature. There’s no physical pen or paper involved, and it is a much more convenient and cost-effective way to sign.

A digital signature is like a digital fingerprint: It’s unique to each user. Digital signatures use a public key infrastructure (PKI) to authenticate and encrypt data and signatures as they are transmitted. PKI creates and generates two long sequences of numbers, also known as keys, that create a time-stamped digital signature that is completely unique to the signer.

To learn more about how e-signatures work, check out this interesting piece on our blog.

The benefits of using electronic signatures

Electronic signatures are extremely beneficial to businesses and individuals. Not only do electronic signatures dramatically cut down the time and effort involved in collecting signatures, but they also allow users to organize and keep track of signed documents more easily.

Here are just some of the many benefits of incorporating electronic signatures into your business processes.


Waiting for people to sign and forward documents to the correct parties can be a drag — not to mention that it wastes precious time you could be using to further develop your business. Electronic signature software makes document creation and signature collection a breeze because it automates the process of distributing, signing, tracking, and storing e-sign documents among multiple parties. Plus, with a platform like Jform Sign, you can also collect payments, use templates, access 100-plus third-party integrations, and more.


Electronic signatures are highly secure because they typically use digital certificates and encryption to verify the signer’s identity. While digital recordkeeping methods are generally reliable, they are still subject to risks like data breaches, identity theft, and fraud. That’s why there are a number of security standards and methods in place to protect users, such as eIDAS, the E-Sign Act, two-factor authentication (2FA), encryption, time-stamping, biometrics, and more.


The costs of paper and ink involved in collecting physical signatures add up over time — as do the number of employee hours it takes to manually distribute and track documents. By taking your signature collection process online, you’ll be saving time and money.


By automatically forwarding documents to signers online, you won’t need to find times to meet face-to-face. With Jform Sign, your signers can sign your documents anytime, anywhere, on any device, which makes the whole process easier for everything. You can instantly send documents via email, link, or file-sharing services for the quickest possible turnaround.

Less environmental impact

Eliminating the need for materials like paper and ink doesn’t just save you money; it’s also a more energy-efficient alternative. When you need to collect signatures from around the world, your carbon footprint goes up dramatically with shipping and processing. Electronic signatures help your company lower its overall environmental impact by allowing signers to receive documents right in their email inbox.


When working with a physical document, it can be difficult to know where it is in the signing process — or where it is at all. With an e-signature platform like Jform Sign, you can track and manage your document status at any time, right from your account. Plus, you can create shared workspaces so your colleagues can track documents alongside you with Jform Teams.

Who uses electronic signatures?

Electronic signatures are used by many different types of businesses and organizations. Here are just a few industries that use electronic signatures in their day-to-day business practices — and how Jform Sign helps streamline their e-signature processes.


Jform Sign offers e-sign documents to collect signatures for contracts, agreements, notices, waivers, releases, and more. Jform Sign is designed to comply with the E-Sign Act and UETA, and the e-signatures are legally binding in many countries. However, we recommended that you consult with your legal team or lawyer before relying on any contract template.


You can create signable documents for your human resources team quickly and easily with a tool like Jform Sign — perfect for onboarding new employees, recruiting potential employees, and managing employee information in one easy-to-access platform. Collaborate with other HR team members, collect signatures on any device, and keep employee data safe and secure.


Automate your sales process with Jform Sign to manage customer relationships and close deals seamlessly. Use Sign to send out partnership contracts and keep track of important documents. Collaborate smarter with your team and automate your sales workflow.


You can use Jform Sign to create power-of-attorney documents, confidentiality agreements, asset procurement documents, and client agreement letters. Keep your clients’ data safe and secure, streamline your workflow, and create professional documents quickly with Jform Sign.


Healthcare professionals can build signable healthcare documents like patient intake forms, hiring forms, insurance forms, and more with JotformSign. Jform also offers HIPAA-friendly forms that can be used to align with HIPAA regulations at your healthcare institution.

Real estate

From creating investment documents, tenant applications, NDAs, appraisal forms, and more, Jform Sign is a great tool for real estate agents. Not only can you create professional real estate documents, you and your team can oversee the entire signing process from start to finish — keeping all parties on the same page.


Government agencies can enhance customer service and streamline workflows with Jform Sign. Create employee onboarding and offboarding documents, loan management forms, consent forms, and more. Track each e-signature document’s process from start to finish and set up the order in which a document is signed by different parties — perfect for documents of all kinds.

How to create an electronic signature

There are a few ways to create an electronic signature for an e-sign document. Two of the easiest ways to create an electronic signature are through Jform’s free signature generator or our dedicated e-signature solution, Jform Sign.

Jform’s signature generator is a fast and easy way to create a downloadable image file of your signature. Just open the signature generator, type or draw your signature, and click Download to save it as an image file.

For a more comprehensive solution, you can use Jform’s e-signature solution, Jform Sign. To do this, open Jform Sign and create a new Sign document. Add the form fields you need and insert Signature fields wherever you see fit. You can assign these Signature fields to the appropriate people, so each user will know exactly where they have to sign. When users click into the signature field, they’ll be able to type or draw their signature to sign.

You can also use other e-signature tools to generate your own electronic signature. Other popular platforms include DocuSign, Adobe Acrobat, SignNow, and more.

How secure is an electronic signature?

Creating your own e-signature document is a breeze with Jform Sign. To start, open your Jform account, click My Forms at the top left to open a dropdown menu, then select My Sign Documents. Click the Create Sign Document button on the left. From here, you can choose to either upload an existing document or choose one of our 600-plus ready-made document templates.

Once you’ve chosen your template or uploaded your existing document, you’ll be taken to our drag-and-drop e-sign builder. Make any changes you see fit to your template or document by adding or removing form fields using the menu on the left or customizing the design with the menu on the right.

After you’ve customized your Sign document to match your needs, all you have to do is share it. Click on the Send section of the builder and add your signers’ names and email addresses. Once all signers have been added, simply click Send to Sign.

What types of documents can be signed electronically?