(Pocket-lint) - Placing e-signatures on documents via an app just makes a lot of sense:
- You don’t need paper or printers.
- You can email the document immediately after.
- You don’t need to travel to sign contracts.
- You can maintain accessible records online.
It’s no wonder electronic signature apps are so popular lately. However, not all of them – especially the stripped-down free versions – are worth your time.
To help you out, we’re bringing you the 10 most reliable, legally-valid, feature-rich free electronic signature apps in this listicle.
But first, if you’re new to the whole concept of digitally signing documents, we want to provide an explanation for some context.
What is an Electronic Signature?
Electronic signatures are the digital counterparts of the ordinary pen-and-paper signature. You can create them with an e-signature app – or simply by scanning a paper bearing your signature. They are a legally-accepted way to acquire consent or approval on a digital document.
Here are some use cases for electronic signatures:
- Administration: You can speed up your usual administration tasks. Turnaround times are faster, and it’s usually less expensive to do business.
- Recruitment and HR: Employers can quickly create job contracts and have them signed by candidates, regardless of their location.
- Legal: You can sign several legal documents online and print them out. Examples include affidavits, NDAs, and liability forms.
Electronic signatures are legally binding. In the US, the ESIGN Act makes e-signatures valid. In Europe, it’s the eIDAS. E-signs are accepted in over 180 countries worldwide.
What is a digital signature and how is it related to an electronic signature?
A digital signature is a more secure type of electronic signature. It becomes integrated into the document after signing and can’t be separated from it. We’ll spare you the technical details. Suffice to say documents with digital signatures can’t be tampered with without you knowing.
Many of the apps on this list - including the first two, CocoSign and DocuSign - support digital signatures.
The 10 Best Free Electronic Signature Apps
1. CocoSign – Our Choice for Best Electronic Signature App
CocoSign is a well-liked electronic signature app that you can access right from your web browser. It’s used by individuals and companies from all over and has been reviewed by top platforms online like Tom’s Guide, TechNewsDaily, and BuzzFeed.
This app makes it to the top of our list because it offers excellent features even to free users.
1.1 The App Packs in Advanced Features
The app offers an array of useful features:
a. CocoSign supports both electronic and digital signatures
Don’t confuse digital signatures with electronic ones. Digital signatures are a step up from electronic signatures. They’re more secure, being certificate-based. That means your signature becomes embedded in the document – and if the document is tampered with, you’ll know.
CocoSign allows you to create both kinds of signatures, and also offers a “wet ink” signature feature.
b. It’s simple to use
The app is well-designed, intuitive, and simple to use. You, or someone else in your organization, won’t need any training to access the app or its features. You can use any internet-enabled device to sign in and start signing, at any time, from anywhere.
In case you don’t always have access to the internet, the app supports offline signatures too.
c. It offers multi-signature support
Some documents, like documents and petitions, require multiple signatures. This app allows you and anyone else you invite to sign any document of your choice. The location doesn’t matter. Further, the app supports signature sequencing, allowing users to sign in the desired order.
d. There are customization options
The app provides many useful customization options. You can create and save document templates for reuse, including legal papers, employment contracts, petitions, letters, and more. You can edit documents as needed. You can even save your signatures for quick reuse.
e. The free plan is generous
The free plan is generous. You just need to create an account to start signing any documents of your choice, and you can share it with multiple people. You can create a template, and you also receive reminders and notifications.
The individual, business, and enterprise plans offer extra options and are priced lower than many other options out there.
1.2 It’s Reliable and Trustworthy
The app offers industry-standard security and compliance:
All connections made to CocoSign are secure and follow the 256-bit SSL encryption. Records also enjoy a high level of protection. The service is PDI DSS certified. Your data is safe in transit, and your signature is kept safe from being hacked or copied.
CocoSign is compliant with all relevant standards such as the GDPR, HIPAA, and the CFR. You can use the app for business or other professional purposes in more than 180 countries worldwide. Signatures made via the app are considered legally binding and valid.
The app is private to use. Your personal data remains yours. As the app is GDPR compliant, your basic personal details are protected. Some examples include your name, address, payment information, and any information you exchange via the app.
No document signing app is perfect, and CocoSign is no exception:
a. Lack of a mobile app
As of the time of this writing, there is no Android or iOS app for CocoSign, though that may change in the future. The absence of a dedicated mobile app isn’t a deal-breaker. The web-based interface is convenient to access, via any phone or PC.
b. Some features are premium-only
Finally, some advanced features are limited to premium users only. If you want options like a template library, custom branding, attachments, payment collection, and in-person signing, you have to purchase a monthly subscription.
On the whole, the pros far outweigh the cons. The free version of CocoSign also compares favorably against the other options on this list in terms of reliability and feature-set.
DocuSign is the big fish in the world of e-signature apps. It has over 200,000 users and has long been the most popular e-signature solution out there. It has a solid reputation and is available for Windows, Android, and iOS.
While DocuSign has long been the vanguard of online document signing, other solutions are quickly catching up – and even outperforming it. DocuSign is, of course, an excellent solution still, but it’s not always the best one.
2.1 DocuSign – Top Advantages
Here is what’s good about DocuSign:
- DocuSign has an excellent design. Creating and managing document templates and signatures is a breeze.
- The app is easy to access and use. No technical skills or training is required.
- The app is encrypted and offers top security.
2.2 DocuSign – Disadvantages
Here is what DocuSign could do better:
It doesn’t integrate with other software as well as it should.
The tech support is less than mediocre.
It is expensive, much more so than other solutions.
2.3 When Pitted Against CocoSign
DocuSign offers many of the same features as CocoSign and is just as easy to use. It has a mobile app, and several advanced features. However, the free version of DocuSign is bare bones. It solely allows you to sign documents, nothing else.
In comparison, CocoSign offers a better free plan and better features. Also, it’s far more affordably priced and can offer solid tech support to boot.
DocuSign is a good app, but the cost-to-benefit ratio offered by CocoSign is better.
Moxtra is a “digital branch” provider. Essentially, it allows you to communicate with your customers and provide them with an array of digital services. The app combines features like a messenger, video, task manager, screen share, payments, and, of course, digital signatures.
This app is an excellent collaboration tool. Conveniently, you and your customers can sign without having to turn to a more dedicated solution. However, the tradeoff is that it lacks many of the features offered by dedicated e-signature apps.
Free plan: The best part about the app is that it’s free to use, but only for 90 days. Afterward, you have to upgrade to a paid plan. If you’d like to sign PDF online for free, then Moxtra is a good choice.
FileInvite is an app that supports signing documents online from clients and customers. It also allows those same clients and customers to sign documents when they send them in. This app is best suited to businesses that constantly collect forms from their customers.
You receive several good features with FileInvite such as the ability to create templates, invite multiple users to sign a document, and sending notifications to customers by emails and texts. Drawbacks include a lack of customization in the template design and an un-optimized workflow.
Free plan: FileInvite comes with a 14-day unrestricted trial period. Two weeks isn’t a lot of time in the business world.
Docsketch is a free electronic signature tool for you to sign PDFs. It’s used by over 9,500 businesses as of date, including Cornell University and SUMO. The app is fairly easy to use and offers several handy features that reduce your turnaround time.
You can get multiple users to sign off on any document, create templates, and maintain legally-valid records. Being a new offering, Docsketch won’t offer advanced features like API integration. It is also missing many bells and whistles other e-signature solutions provide.
Free plan: The free plan allows you to send 3 documents a month, and provides reminders and notifications.
Eversign allows you to securely create, sign, deliver, and accept documents online. The app enjoys a great reputation, with high satisfaction ratings. The biggest draw of Eversign at the moment is its competitive pricing.
This app is compatible with all internet-enabled devices. Eversign happens to integrate with popular apps like Gmail and Dropbox. A drawback is that the app itself isn’t well-optimized. Scrolling through large documents is slow, and UI isn’t very intuitive.
Free plan: You can sign up to 5 documents and 3 API documents for free every month. However, you can’t create templates.
SignRequest has been around for over 5 years and has 300,000 users. The app is used in multiple countries, such as the US and New Zealand, and has a good reputation. It works on multiple platforms, and you can directly embed it in Chrome.
This app does a good job of providing a simple, easy-to-access user interface. It gets bonus points because of how it integrates with Chrome as an extension. A drawback is that it doesn’t organize documents well, and you can’t upload multiple documents at once.
Free plan: The free plan allows you to send 10 documents a month, but does not support templates.
Concord is a contract collaboration and management tool. It’s used by over 300,000 top companies, such as Siemens, Kickstarter, and Discord. The tool allows you to negotiate and sign documents in real-time on a range of platforms.
Like other e-signature apps, you can use Concord for several use cases, including Sales, Legal, Procurement, and HR. The app offers nice features like template building, real-time editing, and approval workflows. Is there a catch? Concord is pricey.
Free plan: There is no free plan. You can try out the “Starter” plan for free, and request demos of other plans. The free trial of the Starter plan offers “core” features only.
SIGNiX is the app to use if you want to eSign documents in the real estate space. It’s a market leader, reaching over 341,000 real estate agents. The app serves clients such as AIG, Raymond James, and Kennesaw State University.
You get several excellent features with SIGNiX like legal evidence, tamper-proofing, and long-term validity. The app is easy to use and accessible on all platforms. However, SIGNiX isn’t the most mobile-friendly app on this list, nor does it support multiple stamps on each document.
Free plan: While the app is affordably priced, there is no free plan. You can request a free live demo that shows you the ropes.
PactSafe allows you to deliver a pain-free contract signing experience to customers and clients. The app is used by many companies, mainly retail organizations such as Doordash and Wayfair. If you want to get customers to quickly agree to terms and conditions, PactSafe is a good choice.
The USP of PactSafe is that the app allows you to create “clickwrap agreements”, which are legally binding contracts a customer agrees to just by ticking a box. PactSafe offers multiple other useful features besides. A major drawback is the platform is clunky – and expensive.
Free plan: There is no free option. The Starter Plan is $25 per month, which allows you to deliver 50 contracts a month. The SMB subscription is $375 per month, offering advanced features.
The first option we covered, CocoSign is perfect if you want to sign documents online quickly, for free. It’s also a good option if you’re a business owner who needs an affordable, feature-rich e-signing solution.
The other best free electronic signature apps all have their strengths and weaknesses and are all worth trying out.