Certifying and signing a PDF

Digital documents provide an excellent, cost and environment-friendly alternative to traditional paper-based ones. Creating and exchanging electronic files also saves time and significantly increases productivity in organizations as well as on the individual level.

However, the transition from paper to electronic-based document workflows and management has posed a new set of challenges to organisations and individuals. One of them was finding a universal file format for sharing electronic documents - a format that can be easily opened and viewed on different devices that run on different operating systems regardless of the document processing suit installed and used on the machine. This early problem was solved back in 1993 with the invention of PDF. The PDF very quickly became the favourite format for sending and archiving digital documents.

But to adequately replace the paper format, digital documents must often be signed and certified. These requirements are met with signing and certifying documents electronically.

What is the difference between signing and certifying a PDF?

When you sign a PDF document using a signature, you basically confirm its contents "as is". Consequently, any other changes made afterwards invalidate the signature and thus, you would know if the document was altered.

In contrast, certifying a document first allows you to specify the changes that a user can make to the document without invalidating the certification. In other words, the document would still be considered to retain its integrity and the recipient could still trust the document.

For example, say you send around a PDF file containing formal paper work which needed to be signed by a number of people. How could each recipient determine if the document wasn't altered by any of the previous signers? A certified document could be set up to allow only those signatures to be appended to the PDF document and nothing else.

After PDF creation, save the PDF as a Certified document in order to certify it. Then you would sign the document to verify your document before sending, as usual. Certifying a PDF allows more flexibility for the sharing of your documents.