Electronic signatures help save everyone time. As soon as you receive a form, you can sign it from your computer, phone or tablet, then send it right back to the sender. 

But what tool do you use to sign? The standard tool for many is Adobe Acrobat Reader, a PDF document software, but it’s not the only option. 

If you or your colleagues don’t have Adobe Acrobat Reader, don’t worry. There are ways to sign a PDF without Adobe so you can maintain streamlined digital workflows. Here’s a detailed look at why you might need an Adobe alternative and how you can eSign with other tools. 

Why You Might Be Asked to Sign a PDF Document

The days of physically signing documents are becoming a thing of the past. While you still might physically sign forms and receipts with in-person transactions, many business operations have moved online. And with this shift to digital operations comes a move to e-signatures. 

No matter the industry, companies have begun to rely on electronic signatures. Here are a few examples of the PDF documents that you might need to sign — or send to other signees:

  • Purchase orders
  • Non-disclosure agreements
  • HIPPA forms
  • Seller’s affidavits
  • Lease agreements
  • New employee contracts
  • Invoices

Signing PDFs online provides many advantages to both the person requesting the signature and the signee. First, it helps streamline work processes since you don’t have to wait to schedule an in-person meeting. The recipient can sign a PDF as soon as they receive it, whether that’s at their desk, at home or in a taxi. 

Businesses might also prefer you to sign PDF documents because they offer increased privacy and protection. Looseleaf papers can be easily stolen or lost, potentially exposing sensitive information. Requesting e-signatures — especially with a service like jSign — helps keep documents safe and easy to find. 

Signing PDFs online also helps companies cut back on printing. This not only reduces ink and paper costs but also lowers the business’s ecological footprint. 

Why You May Want to Sign a PDF Without Adobe Acrobat Reader

Signing PDFs is simple if you have the right app or service. Adobe Acrobat has become one of the standard tools for filling out and signing PDFs online. However, not everyone can access this application, and even the free versions have several limitations.

Limited Access to Adobe

Many Mac users don’t have Adobe Acrobat, even though the software is compatible with Mac computers. They might prefer to use the Preview app to edit PDF files. And since Adobe Acrobat doesn’t automatically come with Windows computers, Windows users might not have the software downloaded either. 

Limited Capabilities in the Free Version

Adobe does offer free e-signature tools online for those who can’t or don’t want to download the software. However, both these tools and the free software download have limitations. 

For example, there’s a storage limitation for how many documents you can store and access. Plus, you can only fill out forms, sign and share files. You can’t send files for others to view and comment on without a subscription, nor can you turn scanned documents into PDFs to sign them. 

Before signing up for a paid Adobe account that can cost hundreds of dollars a year and include unnecessary services, you — or your company — should consider alternative e-signing options. 

How to Sign a PDF Without Adobe

The good news is that Adobe isn’t the only way to sign PDFs online. There are other options, such as Mac’s Preview app and e-signature tools like jSign. 

Use Preview on Mac

Mac computers have the Preview app that lets you fill out and sign PDF forms, just like Adobe. 

Use the following steps to sign a PDF in Preview:

  • Open your PDF file in the Preview app
  • Select the toolbox icon in the top right 
  • Pick the icon that looks like a signature
  • Click on the last option, “Create Signature”

At this point, you must choose between two options: the trackpad and the camera. To sign with the trackpad:

  • Select the trackpad tab, then “Click Here to Begin”
  • Create a signature by drawing on your trackpad
  • Either press “Clear” to redo it or “Done” if it looks good

For the camera option, do the following:

  • Select the camera tab
  • Get a white piece of paper and sign your name
  • Hold the paper up to the camera on your computer
  • Click “Done” when Preview has completed a virtual signature that looks good

Whether you used the trackpad or camera to create the signature, the next steps are the same:

  • The created signature will now appear in the dropdown menu under the signature icon
  • Select your signature to put it in the document 
  • Click and drag it to where you want to sign
  • Use the blue dots on the corners to resize it if needed

Physically Sign the Document

Of course, you can always physically sign the document with pen and ink if you don’t have Adobe. All you need to do is print the document and sign it. 

However, this option becomes more difficult after the physical signing because now you need to return the document to the sender. If you work in the same office as the person or company, you can physically take it to them. But that’s often not feasible, especially with remote work environments. Plus, many people don’t want physical documents that can be lost. 

You have several options to return the signed document:

  • Use a scanner machine to digitize the document again, then send it from your computer
  • Fax the document to the sender
  • Using a scanning app to digitize the document and send it from a phone or tablet

A Simpler (and Safer) Alternative: jSign

There are many ways to sign a PDF — with or without Adobe. However, each one has its limitations. 

Physically signing a document can be tedious, especially if you don’t have access to a printer. You might need to wait to sign the document until you go into the office, or you might drive around trying to find a place that offers printing services. These delays can hold up business proceedings, and we all know that time is money. 

Using the Preview app on your Mac computer is very simple — and a lot like Adobe Acrobat Reader. However, it’s best for individual users who occasionally sign a work contract or rental agreement. 

Companies that handle numerous documents daily might find Preview — and even Adobe — limiting. For example, adding signatures from several team members can be complicated, especially if each person has to download and edit the document on different apps. 

Electronic signature tools like jSign offer a better solution. With jSign, everyone can sign on one platform to create a consistent, streamlined process. The person who sets up the document for signature can add as many signees as needed and even include due dates to ensure a quick turnaround. And recipients don’t even need a jSign account to sign PDFs online — they simply log in with a guest account.

Here’s how it works:

  • Open jSign and log in
  • Drag and drop the PDF file into jSign (or browse your files to find the right one)
  • Add yourself as a signee, and list anyone else who needs to sign
  • Mark where they need to sign with the placeholders, then edit your placeholder
  • Select a previously created signature or choose from several custom options: type, draw, upload and sign pad
  • Save your PDF and click “Finish” to send the document to your team members.

Even if you’re not the one initiating the signing process, you can still use jSign as a quick, easy way to sign a PDF. Just upload the document and use your saved signature.

The best part is that the entire process is protected. jSign uses audit trails and blockchain stamping to ensure that the PDF document has authentic signatures, then sends you a Certificate of Completion that shows when and where each person signed. 


How do I sign a PDF without Adobe?

You can digitally sign PDF files using a digital signature solution like jSign. Just upload the PDF using your jSign account and attach your digital signature. Other alternative methods include printing, signing and scanning your document, or signing a preview image of your PDF using markup tools on an image program. However, only a dedicated e-signature program offers reliable, legally binding signatures on your documents. 

Is there a free way to sign a PDF?

Almost every way to sign a PDF legally costs money somehow. The closest thing to a free tool is Preview on Mac, which lets you add a signature to PDFs. Some users have used screenshots or snipping tools to add a drawn signature to a document, but this method is unreliable and not as legally binding as a dedicated e-signature program. You could always print and scan your document, but even that costs paper and ink. It’s also a cumbersome and slow process that requires a printer and scanner. Some programs claim to offer free online signatures, but those are often unreliable and may be selling your data to fund their site.

How do I legally sign a PDF digitally?

Electronic signatures are legally binding if they meet the requirements set out in the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act), which was signed into law on June 30, 2000. If your signature is protected, can be proven to be your signature, and you can prove intent to sign a document electronically, then it is a valid electronic signature. Your recorded electronic signature must also be kept and stored somewhere.  jSign is a dedicated PDF-signing tool that maintains the integrity of your files, lets you sign files and send them to others, and even allows you to collect multiple legally-binding signatures from others on your files.

Make Signing PDFs Easy

Adobe isn’t the only software you can use to sign PDFs. Mac users have the Preview app, and anyone can print and sign manually. However, each of these processes can be tedious for companies. 

Don’t slow your business down. Instead, consider an e-signature tool like jSign. With jSign, you don’t have to worry about whether you — or your team members — have Adobe. Everyone can access their jSign account from their device, whether it’s a phone, tablet or computer. See for yourself how it works by signing up for a free trial

Kamran Shafii
Manager, SEO Content

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