Electronic Document Signatures

You've got an electronic document that requires a signature. If only you could incorporate the signature, you could send it electronically (say, as an email attachment, or using your computer's built-in faxing capability). Assuming you have a scanner, it's easy to create electronic signatures you can insert into documents at will, with a couple of simple keystrokes.

Step 1: Create the signature(s)

The first thing you need is your signature on paper. You may want to create different "versions" for different uses: black/blue ink; full signature, first initial w/full last name, first name only for "casual" use, etc. Take a clean sheet of the brightest white paper you have, and pressing firmly, sign your name(s). Avoid fine-tipped pens, as signatures made with them often scan with gaps in the lines. You may also want to reproduce each signature version 2 or 3 times, so you'll be able to pick the best one. You should also put black ink signatures on a separate page from those in blue or other colors.

Step 2: Scan the signature(s)

Next, scan the signatures. You may need to play around a bit with your scanner settings to get the best image. For black-ink signatures, use a setting for black and white text or line drawing imaging if you have one of those choices. If you can pre-scan and zoom in so that only the signature(s) are in the final scanned image, then do so. Save the scanned signature(s) in an uncompressed bit-map format such as BMP or TIFF. You may want to scan using a couple of different settings, then print out the scans to see which produces the best results on your printer.

Once you've decided which of your scans you prefer, use a cropping tool, if necessary, to create a series of BMP or TIFF files, each containing a single image of a single version of a signature. Choose filenames that will help you remember which file contains which version.

Step 3: Set up to use the images in Word

Open a word document and select Insert | Picture | From File. Choose one of the signature files to place the scanned signature into the document. Right click on the signature, and select Format Picture | Layout | In line with text. Depending on your environment, you may also have to go to the "Colors and Lines" tab and specify "no line" and "no fill." Resize it as necessary to fit your intended use. (You can always resize it in any given document, too.)

The final step is to define your signature as an AutoText entry, so that you can insert it into any document by typing an identifying text string: With the signature selected, choose Insert | AutoText | New. In the dialog box that opens, give this version of the signature an abbreviation or code, and click "OK." Repeat as necessary, assigning each signature version its own AutoText code.

Using a prepared signature

Now all that set-up really pays off. Anytime you want to insert a given signature into a document, type its AutoText code, and hit F3. Voila! (In some of Word's letter templates and wizards, you may find you can't position your cursor between "Sincerely," and the typed name. If that happens, select both "Sincerely" and the typed name, and go to Forma | Paragraph | Indents and Spacing, and set the "before" and "after" spacing to zero.)

This article provided courtesy of Shulman Clark Associates - Ann Arbor, MI - Providing Practical Technolgy Services For Small Business