Enable e-signatures in Excel

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E-signatures have already been marked out as one of the technology trends accountants should watch out for in 2016. For those who don’t want to sign up to software, follow AccountingWEB.com’s walkthrough guide and enable e-signatures in Excel.

As recently explored on AccountingWEB, E-signatures remove the barriers of geographical distance or the time constraints that prevent accountants obtaining their clients’ signatures in person.

Endorsing this technology on a recent Any Answers thread, Jennifer Adams said: “E-signatures are very useful when you have clients who cannot attend your office to sign. I have clients who are based all over the world and they can’t drop everything and get on a plane just to see me for an hour.” 

Software providers like Digita have released electronic authorisation systems that streamline the process. But this tutorial devised by David Ringstrom allows you to try out this technology using freehand text in Excel.

Find the scribble tool

To add freehand text to an Excel spreadsheet without using a stylus or the finger touch technology:

  1. Click on the insert menu
  2. Click the Shapes command
  3. In the drop down menu, select the scribble positioned at the far right of lines.
  4. The cursor will switch to a pencil icon

Scribble your signature

  1. Use your mouse to craft your signature.
  2. Click down on the left mouse button to activate the pencil.
  3. Hold down the mouse until you have stopped writing. Breaking off from writing automatically turns the tool off.
  4. Once you have finished writing your signature, you can select your freehand object to make changes. 

An example of a signature using this method is displayed below. 

Add additional objects

By selecting your freehand object, the drawing tools format menu will automatically display. 

  1. Choose the scribble shape and write on top of your signature to add additional objects. This function would be useful if you wanted to add the diagonal line in ‘X’, or cross the ‘T’ or dot the ‘I’.
  2. You can also right click the object and select the ‘edit point’ function to drag out a line, or pull out a point.  (See below for examples of this.)

Hide the signature

Security came up as a reason some users were hesitant in embracing this technology. Writing on Any Answers, Lionofludesch said: “Despite the acclaimed security, anyone can carelessly or deliberately give his signature details to someone else.”

Although e-signatures remain more at risk on Excel, Ringstrom suggested a way to temporarily hide the freeform shapes. Under trusted supervision, this Excel technique could assist in preventing fraud. 

To hide your signature, Ringstrom advises:

  1. Click on Find and select.
  2. Choose selection pane from the bottom of the find and select menu (as seen below).

The selection panel will appear at the far right side of the screen. As per the example below, the signature (the freeform shape) will be named ‘Freeformx’. 

Ringstrom points out that beside the Freeform shape is an eye. To hide the signature, click on the eye. Click the eye again, and the signature reappears.

It’s worth noting that these methods in Excel should be approached with caution, and users should be vigilant of signature forging. For a more secure option, you should contact an e-signature provider. 

By seeing the benefits of e-signatures in Excel, you may be persuaded to seek out a more robust solution with a software provider. You can find more of David Ringstrom’s Excel tips by heading to AccountingWEB.com. 

About Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.


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02nd Feb 2016 12:00

Making the signature look half way descent

I found that doing the original signature oversized and then reducing the object box, ironed out all the stutters and looks more professional, rather than a five year olds.

Thanks (2)
08th Feb 2016 21:06

It's all downhill from here

Decent, not descent

Thanks (0)
24th Feb 2016 13:27


All very advanced and nice. Try describing to a client how to sign a set of accounts from the above. The client would be quicker getting on a plane and signing at your office than learning the above. This is in no way a replacement for e-sig software wh's beauty lies in its simplicity even to the excel uninitiated. Accountants need to understand that many people are not excel savvy or even have the program on their desktop. 

Thanks (1)