5 different types of signatures to know about.

A woman sitting at a table reviewing a document signature on a tablet.

Explore the vital distinction between different types of signatures and uncover the top 5 signature varieties everyone should be familiar with.

It might feel odd to have a conversation about the types of signatures when, in theory, a signature is just one thing. But there are actually several different types of signatures that can each do different things.

Read on to get a basic introduction to the five most relevant signature types.

What are the different types of signatures?

Perhaps surprisingly, signatures come in a variety of different formats that can be quite more useful and practical depending on the needs of the recipient.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the following:

While each of these options will help document managers collect the signatures needed to conduct business, they have specific applications that can help companies look for more or less insight into who is signing their documents.

First two: digital and electronic types of signatures.

There are a number of electronic signature benefits to take advantage of as long as you use the right format for your needs, either digital or electronic. These two terms are often considered synonymous, often referring to them as types of digital signatures, but that’s not true.

A digital signature is a specific kind of electronic signature that is typically more secure, has built-in protective features, and embeds information if anyone tries to change a document.

An electronic signature, on the other hand, is just a digital version of a handwritten signature — without any of these comprehensive security features.

Three other types of electronic signatures to know about.

But those aren’t the only types of electronic signatures you should be aware of. There are three more that are necessary to understand if you’re delving into the world of electronic signatures (ES) and what they entail:

  1. Basic electronic signatures. Considered the simplest type of ES, identity verification isn’t usually required. These signatures are not always legally binding.
  2. Advanced signatures. These signatures require a certain level of identity verification and are often sent using a specific delivery service that can provide trails that are easy to track and audit. Usually, they need to be certified by a certificate authority to be valid.
  3. Qualified signatures. The most complicated of the three, this type of signature requires firm identification and must meet additional specified criteria to be valid, like built-in features that verify whether the document or data has been tampered with or changed.

When to use the different types of signatures.

Most signatures are required to provide identifying information about the sender for the benefit of the recipient. However, there are specific use cases where different types of signatures are more practical to use.

In instances where it is vital for the document owner to verify the identity of the person signing the file, advanced electronic signatures and qualified signatures are usually the best option. Document examples include contracts and transaction records where the signature needs to be considered legally binding, or an audit trail needs to be established to ensure that the document has not been altered in any way.

For situations where different types of digital signatures are not as rigid or an audit trail is not required, an electronic signature (also known as a basic or simple signature) can be sufficient.

The right tools for all types of signatures.

Ready to take your signature — and what it can do — to a new level? You need the right tools first. Find out more about everything that’s possible when it comes to different types of signatures with Adobe Acrobat today, including the ability to create digital signature certificates.