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Create a signature for PDF documents on a Mac



Even before the COVID-19 pandemic closed most offices, more and more official papers were turned into PDF documents. (PDF stands for Portable Document Format; it is a standard developed by Adobe in the early 1990s that enables paper documents to be converted into exact digital copies.) Today, paperwork on paper is quickly becoming the exception rather than the rule. But even digital documents must be signed. You can do it long term – print those documents, sign them and then scan them back to your computer – or you can create a digital signature and place it directly on the PDF.

If you̵

7;re on a Mac, the process is refreshingly simple – just use the built-in Preview app to create and save your digital signature. (If you’re using a Windows PC, it’s not that easy, unfortunately.) After that, when you open a PDF with Preview, all you have to do is place the signature in the document.

To create your signature, you must first have a PDF ready:

  • Open a PDF document with your Mac’s built-in Preview app. (If you don’t have a PDF document handy, you can create one with your favorite word processor and save it as a PDF file.)
  • Open the Markup tool by clicking the “pen in a circle” symbol in the top right corner of the preview window or by selecting View> Show Markup Toolbar
  • Click on the signature icon (it’s the icon that looks like a signature on a line)

Click the signature icon to create your signature via trackpad, camera or phone

Click the signature icon to create your signature via trackpad, camera or phone.

Now you can create your signature. As you can see from the three buttons at the top of the window, you have a choice of three methods:

  • Select Trackpad. Click the “Click here to start” button in the center of the screen, sign your name on the trackpad, press any key, then click “Done”.
  • Write your name on a piece of white paper, select Camera and hold the paper in front of the camera (and on the line that appears across the screen) until you see the signature on the screen. (Two notes: first, the signature will appear upside down while you hold it up, but the digitized version will be correct. Also, if there are other marks on the paper or the paper doesn’t fill the screen, chances are that you to include other marks besides the signature, so you may have to try it a few times to get it right.)

While holding your written signature in front of the camera, it will appear inverted

While holding your written signature in front of the camera, it will appear inverted.

Once the signature is established, it is no longer a mirror image

Once the signature is established, it is no longer a mirror image.

  • Select iPhone. If you have an iPhone paired with the Mac, your phone will almost immediately open a field where you can write your signature; your signature will be mirrored on your Mac.

Once the signature is established, it is no longer a mirror image

This screenshot shows what the signature field looks like on an iPhone.

While you are writing, the signature will appear on your screen at the same time

While you are writing, the signature will appear on your screen at the same time.

In either of these methods, if you need to try again, just hit the “Clear” button at the bottom left of the window to remove the unwanted signature. When you are happy with it, click ‘Done’.

Now when you want to add your signature to a document in Preview, just click the Signature icon and click your signature. It will appear in a box on your document that you can then use to adjust its size and location.

Your signature will now be displayed below the Signature icon in the Preview app.

Your signature will now be displayed below the Signature icon in the Preview app.

You can move the signature to the desired location and resize it.

And if you want a second signature, create it in the same way. After that, if you click the Signature icon, you will see both signatures and can select the one you want to use. Do you no longer need one of the signatures? Hover over the signature until you see a small “x” next to it, then click to delete it.


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