Signing documents without the print/scan hassle

Like other folks that sit on more than a couple boards, I get many documents per week that I need to review, print out, sign, scan back in and email. I’m a stickler for initialing every page of documents I’m approving so while it may seem a small matter, the amount of time, printer expense and paper waste bothers me. More importantly, I’m often out of my office and begging someone to print a document for me and let me borrow their fax, or more to my chagrin, hold people up by deferring the task. Hence my search for a simple way of stamping my initials and signature on documents electronically. MacOS makes it easy to print everything to PDF, and this is the way I file everything so my solution needed to be be PDF based and Acrobat is silly expensive so I ignored that option.

After hunting around and trying a couple alternatives, I’m now using PDFpen (MacOS AppStore) which is overpriced at $60 since it does much more than allow you to attach signatures, but it does do the job simply. It let’s you get just the right transparency level on your signature and has a straight-forward “library” floating window so that once you’re set up it is super quick to just slam down your john henry in the 27 spots required, initialing every page as you go. Now you might say what about those old-school lawyers that demand a hard copy? Life is too short to placate them and I’ve found that even the persistent ones eventually cave when I ignore them.

One trick to making this work is that you need to go into Apple’s colorsync program (in the utilities folder) and add a new profile so that when it comes time to save PDF file, you’ll have an option to compress the file to a reasonable size for email. Even 50 page documents can be compressed to a few megabytes while preserving colour and good quality if you get the settings right.

The whole process comes down to “printing to PDF” to your filing system from word/excel/etc. while you’re reviewing, then dragging that icon to PDFpen to add signatures, then drag the icon back to your reply email. That’s about as expedient as I can imagine, and much quicker than printing.

Some day we’ll get a step closer to the fancy PGP digital signatures I used to put on my emails 15 years ago but until then, here’s to keeping it simple with a paperless, mobile office that let’s you spend more time thinking about business issues rather playing the paper chase.

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