Digital signatures simplified

Guest post by Andrea Valle, Senior Product Manager, Adobe Document Cloud

The newest version of Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat Reader that we are releasing today includes a complete redesign of the user experience associated with digital signatures. The updated “Certificates” tool makes it easier than ever to digitally sign and verify documents using a certificate-based Digital ID:

  • Set up your Digital IDs easily.
  • Apply a digital signature via the new modernized UI.
  • Customize your signature appearance.

The new Digital ID configuration wizard

Configuring your Digital IDs for signing has never been easier. A brand new wizard will guide you to select the right option based on the source and type of Digital ID you want to configure.


You can configure Digital IDs contained in a secure hardware device like a smart card or USB token connected to your computer. This type is the most secure certificate-based Digital IDs and is typically issued by trusted providers (Certificate Authorities), like those who are members of the Adobe Authorized Trust List (AATL) program.


Digital IDs can also be imported from files having a PFX or P12 file extension. This option is typically used when a hardware device is not provided by the Certificate Authority. This allows moving Digital IDs from a computer to another, even across different Operating Systems, as these are standard formats. Digital ID files are typically password protected, so that only the authorized user can access it for signing.


Sensitive transactions between businesses generally require a Digital ID issued by a Certificate Authority. However, in case this is not possible or convenient, you can alternatively create a self-signed Digital ID. This option can be useful among users who can reciprocally trust their self-signed certificates without involving a Certificate Authority.

This option offers the ability to select the destination to store the Digital ID: a new self-signed ID can be saved in a PFX file but also in the secure repository provided by the Operating System, from where other applications can also retrieve and use it. On Windows, this repository is called the Windows Certificate Store, while on a Mac it’s called the Apple Keychain.


A new modern UI for applying digital signatures

When you click on a digital signature field or apply a digital signature from the “Certificates” tool, Acrobat now provides a new modernized experience to simplify the signature creation and the customization of its appearance.

First Acrobat now offers the selection of the Digital ID to use for signing from the complete list of IDs you have available. The last ID that has been used appears as preselected at the top of the list, but you can select another ID for signing, if available. The “View Details” link allows showing the information contained in the certificate, to ensure you choose the right Digital ID.


The following screen shows a preview of the signature appearance that will be applied to the document.


The standard text-based appearance will show up initially, but you can easily create a new custom appearance using your signature image, or uploading a scanned image to add it to your digital identity. There you can add valuable information to your signature appearance, such as a logo, the signing time and date, or the reason for signing. These elements can be saved in a custom preset that can be reused later.


Concerned about the new modern user experience?

We believe that the new modern experience for digital signatures will greatly help simplifying the activities required to configure, customize and apply your digital signatures, and we have validated this new approach with multiple customers during the development cycle with very positive feedback.

However, you may have some good reasons still to prefer the old UI. To not leave you in troubles, we have added a new preference that allows turning off the new experience and reverting back to the old UI.

From Preferences > Signatures > Creation & Appearance (More…) you can uncheck the “Use modern user interface…” option to turn off the new experience and return to the old one. This preference is active by default and can be controlled by means of Registry (Windows) and Plist (MacOS) preferences, so it is suitable for a custom configuration with automated deployments of Acrobat.

We’d like to hear your opinion on this new feature. Please leave your comments.