How-To

How to Add a Digital Signature to a Word Document

You can add a digital signature to Office 365 files, including Microsoft Word documents. Here are the steps to take to make this happen.

A digital signature is an electronic, encrypted stamp of authentication that you can add to different electronic documents, including those created in Microsoft Word. Often called a digital ID, this signature type confirms the document is unaltered and came from the original signer.

A digital signature is created using a signing certificate and certificate authority (CA). The former proves your identity and includes a certificate and public key. The latter is the entity that issues and signs digital certificates and guarantees their validity. Additionally, it also has the power to track and revoke certificates. Loans and other legal documents often include digital signatures, which makes it possible to eliminate paper documents.

You can purchase digital certificates from third parties such as GlobalSign, IdenTrust, and DocuSign. Many include a free trial.

Add a Digital Signature

To include a digital ID in a Word document, you use a signature line. The author of the document can customize this line by specifying what type of information is required. Conversely, the receiver of the electronic copy of the file sees the signature line and notification that their signature is required.

For convenience, the signer can type a signature, select a picture of an inked signature, or write a signature using the inking feature of a touch-screen PC.  When the signer adds a visible representation of a signature to the document, a digital signature is added at the same time to authenticate the signer’s identity.

To add a signature line:

  1. Open your Word document.
  2. Place your pointer in the location you wish to create a signature line.
  3. Choose Signature Line under the Insert tab in the Text group.
  4. Next, select Microsoft Office Signature Line.
  5. In the Signature Setup box, add the information that will appear beneath the signature line, then click OK.

Components

This includes:

  • The Suggested signer: The signer’s full name
  • Suggested signer’s title: The signer’s title, if any.
  • The Suggested signer’s e-mail address: The signer’s e-mail address, if needed.
  • Instructions to the signer: Add instructions for the signer, such as “Before signing the document, verify that the content is correct.”

Consider the two included checkboxes:

  • Allow the signer to add comments in the Sign dialog box: Allow the signer to type a purpose for signing.
  • Finally, Show sign date in signature line: The date the document was signed will appear with the signature.

digital signature setup

Digital signature

Add other signature boxes, as needed. If you haven’t already done so, save your document. And remember, you need to have a digital certificate from a digital ID or digital signature services provider.

Note, only the document creator needs to install a digital certificate, not the receiver.

Removing the Digital Signature

Further, to delete a digital signature from a document:

  1. First, open the Word document that contains the visible signature you want to remove.
  2. Right-click the signature line.
  3. Choose Remove Signature.
  4. Finally, click Yes.

Add an Invisible Signature

Additionally, you might want to consider adding an invisible digital signature to a Word document. When placed, these signatures guarantee the authenticity, integrity, and origin of the document.

To add an invisible signature:

  1. Click the File tab.
  2. Choose Info.
  3. Select Protect Document.
  4. Next, click Add a Digital Signature.
  5. Choose OK.
  6. Type the purpose in the Purpose for signing this document box.
  7. Choose Sign.

Once signed, the file becomes read-only to prevent modifications.

invisible digital signature

Remove an Invisible Digital Signature

You can eliminate an invisible digital signature in a Word document by following these directions:

  1. Open the document.
  2. Click Info.
  3. Next, choose View Signatures.
  4. Click the arrow next to the signature name you want to remove.
  5. Select Remove Signature.
  6. Click Yes.

Digital signatures serve a valuable service, making it possible to sign legal documents remotely and without physical paper. Once you get a digital certificate, you can add digital signatures to Word documents and other files.

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