Image: iStockphoto/lukutin77, Dropbox

Sending people forms and documents that they must sign can be challenging. The traditional method of sending such documents through the mail is slow. Faxing such documents is problematic, especially if the recipients don’t have a reliable way to receive them. Sending out a document electronically seems like the quickest solution. But even that can prove difficult, especially if the signature must be legally binding. All of this is why Dropbox is rolling out a new feature designed to help professionals and other people who need to collect legally binding electronic signatures.

SEE: Managing the multicloud (ZDNet special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

Available starting Tuesday for all Dropbox users, the new Dropbox eSignature feature integrates HelloSign, an eSignature company that Dropbox bought last year. Using Dropbox as your launching pad, you set up an existing form with the correct fields to collect signatures, dates, and other text.

You then email the form to one or more recipients. Those people add their signatures through any one of several methods. After the documents are signed, the sender and recipients can all view copies of the final version.

Initially available as a beta, the new feature is now accessible to all Dropbox users across all plans, including free, paid, and business. However, users are limited to just three free eSignature requests per month. Unlimited signatures are possible only with a paid HelloSign plan, which starts at $15 per month.

To use the new eSignature feature, you first have to create a form or other document set up with fields to allow for signatures and other text, a task you can accomplish with Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, or other applications. You’d then save your document as a PDF file. After your document is ready, sign into your Dropbox storage space and upload the document. In the Tools section on the left sidebar, click the entry for HelloSign. Then click the button to Choose a file to start (Figure A).

Figure A

At the HelloSign window, click the button to Choose a file. Browse to check the document you wish to email for signature and click the Choose button (Figure B). The first time you do this, you may need to verify your email address with Dropbox.

Figure B

Your document is then prepared for signing. At the screen for Who needs to sign, enter the name and email address of each recipient who must sign the document. Click Next (Figure C).

Figure C

The document appears. Scroll to each area where you need to insert the form fields. You can insert fields for a signature, initials, or a date. You can also add your own text boxes and check boxes for customized text. To add a field, simply drag it from the left sidebar into the appropriate spot in the document.

If you’re sending the document to more than one recipient, you must choose the proper recipient for each text field. You can do this by clicking the person’s name in the right sidebar before dragging the field type. From the right sidebar, you can also change the font and size for text fields. When done, click Next (Figure D).

Figure D

At the next screen, choose a folder and name for the final signed copy of the document (Figure E).

Figure E

At the next screen, you can add any recipients you wish to CC in the email and create a message to include in the email. Click the button to Send for Signature (Figure F).

Figure F

Your recipients then receive emails requesting their signatures on the document. In the email, they would click the button for Review & Sign. That brings them to the document. Clicking the Get Started button takes them to the necessary fields to fill. For a signature, a recipient can draw it with a finger or stylus, type it, upload an image of a signature, or even take a photo of one on a smartphone. The recipient clicks Insert (Figure G) and then the button for I agree.

Figure G

After all the recipients have signed and filled out the document, another email is sent to all parties to view the final version in the sender’s Dropbox space.