How to Write and Sign PDF Contracts on an iPad

Posted by Ryan Ward on Monday, June 14th, 2010 at 10:04pm.


*Update - I have updated this post as it remains extremely useful to many people and as the app store has developed, I've changed apps. Currently, the best app for this that I have found is PDF Expert and I have adjusted that further down the page. If you know of something that works better, please post a reply in the comments.

Previous Best App: 

Previously, the best app for this that I have found is TakeNotes and I have adjusted that further down the page and left the basic 'how to' if you want to use it. It still works very well, but does not fill in form fields the way PDF Expert does although it has a better user interface to create text box to add text.

**If you aren't interested in an iPad or you don't need to manipulate PDFs and/or sign them, you can probably skip this post. On the other hand, if you are a real estate agent or any other person who may want to get an iPad, but thinks that it is only a toy because all you can do is read the web (without flash ((which turns out to be less of a deal than I thought)), you may find this post interesting.

I was a doubter. I thought that it was really just a toy, but I really wanted an iPad anyway. Besides, I have a weakness for new electronic toys and I like technology and I like being an early adopter so I really wasn't able to NOT get one.

Now that I have one, I need it to make it work for business - and it does. I can search the GAMLS via (a well designed version of the GAMLS which many Atlanta estate agents dread using), I can read Word and Excel documents and I can write documents on Pages and export as Pages, Word or PDF. I can even create a flyer better than most flyers I see with built-in templates in Apple's $9.99 Pages app.

However, I was still skeptical about ditching my laptop. I'll definitely have more posts about how to make the iPad work for real estate, but understandably, the most important question seems to be centered around contracts and signatures and whether or not writing contracts and signing them would be possible.

The short answer is yes, you can write and sign contracts, but not without Apple's amazing App Store. Below is a tutorial on what you need to know if you want to use an iPad as your most frequently used computing device. It is my goal to do so and I am almost there. First, the contract writing tutorial.

Writing and Signing Contracts "How-To" for the iPad

What you need:

  • iPad
  • PDF Expert
  • An internet connection
  • A computer to set it up before you leave it ditch the laptop.

iAnnotate will allow you to sign your contract with your finger or a stylus. It's a powerful PDF editor. PDFExpert is the key to writing your contract. Buy this app from the app store and that's all the technology you need.

For PDF Expert: 

PDF Expert Can store your PDF files within the app itself. It seamlessly integrates with Dropbox to import/export documents so keep a store of the blank forms in a folder there or in a folder within the app itself.

For TakeNotes: 

Save to your computer all of the contracts you use frequently as background images in TakeNotes. I am going to upload my PDFs to the Takenotes Background Library via the Takenotes web server, but you can do so through a shared folder if you would like (As it turned out, using iTunes was easier once I learned how to do this). The Background Library becomes the source file that you will type on to input your contract information. Below is a screenshot of an uploaded Background Library PDF of a counteroffer form. You can enter as many text fields as you would like:

Takenotes ScreenshotAt this point, you have your PDF of choice uploaded to Takenotes and you simply select the one you need ie offer, counteroffer, etc...and type your text fields. Each text box like the one that says "Type Here" to your left slides around and increases or decreases in size by sliding your finger as easily as any other iApple-touch-device.

You can even create one time text boxes in all of the areas you need and then reuse the file over and over.

Once your PDF has been typed on to make the contract changes or offer you need, you simply email it as a PDF to yourself switch to the pen tool and scroll to the section of the docuement you need to sign and use your finger to sign.

Next, open Mail and open the attached PDF in iAnnotate. From iAnnotate, you need only use a custom pencil and to scroll down to where you and your client needs to sign. Once that's done, you are done!

All that is left is to email your document. There is a caution here and a couple of bugs, but it seems to work perfectly if anyone opens your annotated file in Acrobat Reader.

Go back to the TakeNotes main screen and click the "Share" button. The most convenient way for me is to share via email as a PDF. Make sure you turn "Create .Zip archive" off and then click export.

Here is a link to a PDF I created (This is a new link as the old one had the iAnnotate signature that some people couldn't see in the comments section). Please let me know if you don't see the signature. I will admit, I need to work on my fingermanship a little but you can order a stylus for iPad here and that should make for better signatures...

Good luck and happy contract writing from iPad!!!

One last thing - I think the image saves as smaller than 8.5 X 11 so when you print the image may be a little more pixelated. Make sure you adjust your print settings to print at a full page size.

One more last thing - Of you see any errors, please post them so others can learn.

Thank you,

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About the Author

Ryan Ward is the CEO of Premier Atlanta Real Estate, LLC with Keller Williams Realty Consultants. Ryan began selling real estate in 2004 and began running a small team of agents in 2006. Ryan considers the real estate business to be a fusion of the Professional and Service industries and credits their success to remaining true to these principles. Ryan is also an expert on marketing and internet technologies as well as the local real estate market. Ryan is a member of the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist, Keller Williams Luxury Homes division, Global Property Specialist and a member of the local, state and national Association of Realtors. He has also served on the Associate Leadership Council for Keller Williams.

Contact Ryan directly on his cell phone: 404-630-3187
Premier Atlanta Real Estate

60 Responses to "How to Write and Sign PDF Contracts on an iPad"

Alex Cortez wrote: LOL, not finding the iPad as good a value as you thought, eh? No worries, I'm sure you'll find more ways to play with it.

I haven't tried this iAnnotate app yet, but now I'll definitely give it a try. Thanks.

Posted on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 at 5:00am.

Ryan Ward wrote: Actually I like it for much more than I would. I don't really need my laptop very much. I can't edit photos on a large scale for a listing, but there is little I do on a laptop that I need to lug around any more.

Posted on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 at 7:41am.

wrote: [...]



Posted on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 at 8:00am.

Preston Guyton wrote: Nice post. I really want the HTC Evo from Sprint, debating on which one to buy first. The writing and signing contracts is a great feature. Now my signature is just going to get that much worse. It always looks that much worse with the stylus pens.

Posted on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 at 10:40am.

Toni wrote: Don't see the signature. I am having the same problem:(

Posted on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 at 4:33pm.

Ryan Ward wrote: Toni, what program are you using that you can't see the signature?

Posted on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 at 5:00pm.

Toni wrote: iAnnotate - It doesn't save the signature when I email it. Is there a save function to apply before you email it?


Posted on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 at 5:18pm.

Ryan Ward wrote: I don't know why it doesn't show up once you have signed it and emailed it to yourself in iAnnotate, but I used this today with my closing coordinator and emailed the typed up takenotes to myself and then opened it in iAnnotate, signed it and emailed it to her and it had my signature on her computer. She opened it with Adobe and it worked perfectly!

Posted on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 at 5:35pm.

Fitchburg WI real estate wrote: I just downloaded these two apps so I could try to replicate what you did Ryan but then I clicked on your PDF file link and noticed I can't see the signature either.

Posted on Friday, June 18th, 2010 at 3:21am.

Ryan Ward wrote: Jolenta, what are you using to view it? iAnnotate? For some reason, the app doesn't recognize its own signatures. I'd love to have another app to write on the PDFs and print them, but, I sent Instructions to Closing Attorney (a form we use for contracts) to another agent the other day from my car after showing property and it worked great. It was wonderful to have that freedom AND it was very fast. The iAnnotate app seems to work fine with Adobe Reader and Acrobat...

Posted on Friday, June 18th, 2010 at 7:09am.

Panama City Real Estate | Jennifer Mackay wrote: Thanks for this great information Ryan.

Jessie and I have been looking into implementing this for agents as well.

We have Adobe pro we use in the office, but this may solve our on-site issue for our team agents.

Best wishes

Posted on Friday, June 18th, 2010 at 9:38am.

Ryan Ward wrote: I have a fix for not being able to See the documents that was easier than iAnnotate. I'll post a comment here tomorrow after I post an updated entry.

Posted on Sunday, June 20th, 2010 at 9:41pm.

Fitchburg WI homes for sale wrote: Am I missing something here? Why do we even need iAnnotate? I was able to edit my contract (PDF) in TakeNotes AND sign it (using my finger) at which point I then emailed it to myself. Contrary to iAnnotate, I was even able to see all my edits, including my signature, in email. (With iAnnotate I had to go back to my computer in order to be able to see the changes.)

Posted on Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 at 2:12am.

Ryan Ward wrote: No, you are not missing something - that was what I was commenting about yesterday...there is still a problem though. TakeNotes creates a file that is about 75% as large as a regular 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper so when someone opens it, it tends to be pixelated. There is a fix for this in photoshop by enlarging the image a little bit at a time until it is the right size, but that isn't practical as it requires a separate computer which defeats the purpose. Right now, I haven't found a way to fix this from the iPad. However, I did need to use iAnnotate yesterday since iPad shows single page PDFs embedded in the email instead of attached. I was able to place one finger on the PDF in the email and copy it to iAnnotate and then send it to TakeNotes. At this point, there is not a true file management system so for now, this is the best I can come up with. I'm certainly open to ideas though :)

Posted on Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 at 8:48am.

Ryan Ward wrote: Well, the truth is that the best way to handle this is to have remote access to your desktop - at least for now. I purchased ($30) the logmein app and downloaded and installed the software for my office desktop and for my primary computer which is a laptop. When I need something with flash or a contract, I can create and edit on my desktop and then email it to myself for signature from the iPad. This is the best of both worlds as I can print remotely to my office or to my home office making virtually all of the problems go away. I opted for the $69/year pro account and I truly will not look back. I can absolutely leave the computer and take only needed paperwork and my iPad.

Posted on Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 at 4:21pm.

Fitchburg WI homes wrote: Great to hear that. I've been curious about logmeinignition for awhile now. I've read mixed reviews. Question now is, will it work with a Mac (I know you're a PC shop). I've also heard might not let you in if your computer is in sleep mode.

Posted on Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 at 4:32pm.

Ryan Ward wrote: It's very fast (change the output resolution), works on a Mac and changes the computer settings so it won't go into sleep mode when you set up the software on the computer you want to use...

Posted on Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 at 4:38pm.

Ryan Ward wrote: I still have take notes and iAnnotate, but for now, logmein does it all for me without the hassle of a computer...there is still a possible use for it to open and export - I think. I will have to check...

Posted on Monday, July 5th, 2010 at 6:44pm.

David wrote: It is amazing what can be done with the I-Pad! I will be getting one Monday and I cannot wait to use if for my business. What I think makes it even better is the look. It looks professional for a Realtor. Thank you for the insight on how to do the signatures. Wow, that will help out a ton.

Posted on Saturday, July 10th, 2010 at 2:52pm.

Ryan Ward wrote: I have a friend who says zosh is a good app to sign with -
I have not had any issues with Logmein. Simply install it and it works. I wrote a contract with it while I was at the hospital over the weekend...

Posted on Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 at 10:47pm.

Ryan Ward wrote: Until there is a file management system built into the operating system, it's not really going to work as a "computer" in the form that we think of. It will have to be some kind of cloud system, but even then, the iPad can't open documents well because you can't go to a folder, pick a file and then choose a program to open it with. You can't really print anything or rename and organize photos into folders of your own choosing, you can't actually do much with it except look at it and conceptually say that it would be a neat design if it was a computer, but it isn't. You can access the internet on a nice screen and store a few photos. The internet access allows you to virtually use it as a computer...

Posted on Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 at 11:24pm.

Ryan Ward wrote: Don't get me wrong Stephen - I absolutely love my iPad. But, all of these apps are really just patchwork programming compared to a computer with fully functioning programs and a file management system.

Maybe I'm still working through some functionality issues - I just signed up for Dropbox and that may solve some of my issues - I still think it needs to have a real file management system...

Posted on Wednesday, July 14th, 2010 at 7:40am.

Ryan Ward wrote: Now if I could get Dropbox to open a TakeNotes file I would be in good it is now, I can modify a PDF in Takenotes and email it to myself because iPad does not know how to deal with one page PDFs (this is an iPad bug). I just found a workaround as many times, I need to edit and sign one page PDFs. This has been a big problem and still remains a bug though.

I can open a PDF in Dropbox and then open it in TakeNotes and fill out the form, sign it. Next, I have to email it to myself, tap and hold to copy to the clipboard. Open iAnnotate and paste from clipboard into iAnnotate. Then, I can open it in DocstoGo from iAnnotate and then sync it back to Dropbox where I can share the completed PDF. That is not right and is difficult. I suspect this problem will be resolved in the next software update.

Posted on Thursday, July 15th, 2010 at 2:29pm.

Cliff Haiku wrote: Great info, Ryan. I just got my iPad and can't wait to play with it! Hopefully your post will help me with contracts.

Posted on Friday, July 16th, 2010 at 10:10pm.

Tasha wrote: I was thinking that same thing- the iPAD can only be a toy- no way could it replace my laptop! I did get one, because I too, need to have the latest electronic devices just like everyone else. I like most of the features and do use it for work- however, it has not replaced my laptop- I have a hard time giving that one up! Thanks for the info- I'll try downloading that iAnnotate- it should be very helpful!

Posted on Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 at 3:14pm.

Howard Flaschen wrote: We have been steering away from the IPAD due to some its limitations in regards to printing and such but I gotta tell ya, your post makes it come back on the radar and look really interesting!

Posted on Tuesday, August 10th, 2010 at 8:00pm.

Ian Marshall wrote: Ryan, What a great idea. Curious if you or any of the other agents in your office are utilizing this technology.


Posted on Thursday, August 12th, 2010 at 5:01pm.

Ryan Ward wrote: Hi Ian, I have one and I use it - I only use the TakeNotes app as the iAnnotate doesn't actually do anything I need it to, but I bought the $15 DocstoGo app and a Dropbox account and I don't actually need the full blown computer for nearly as many things. I wrote an offer at 1 a.m. in the hospital the night my daughter was born last month - it closed the other day and I have signed contracts paperlessly several times since. It's very handy - it was also $ a few apps...

Posted on Thursday, August 12th, 2010 at 5:07pm.

JB wrote: I've been holding off buying the I-pad until Google comes out in November. Maybe I should go ahead I think Apple will always stay a couple of steps ahead of competition. Would you agree?

Posted on Saturday, August 21st, 2010 at 1:52pm.

Ryan Ward wrote: This post has been updated to reflect the best way I have found to write and sign contracts using only one app. Please let me know if you found errors or a better way...

Posted on Saturday, September 11th, 2010 at 8:41am.

Rita Burke wrote: Hi Ryan, We have had ipad for a few months now and just discovered this about a week ago. I must say this is making life easier from the document signing standpoint. YAY. Thanks for the update.

Posted on Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 at 3:29pm.

Jason Gilbert wrote: Thanks for the inspiration. I was feeling like my wife would tell me that I couldn't get one because it was a toy. Now, I have a real excuse that will really help with productivity.

Posted on Monday, October 18th, 2010 at 6:49pm.

Gloria Singer wrote: Hi Ryan,
I am about to take the plunge for the ipad. Wouldn't a forms program and docusign (which I use and love anyhow) be the best way to deal with contracts?

Posted on Thursday, October 21st, 2010 at 7:53am.

Terence Richardson wrote: Hmmm.. my first comment was detected as spam? Anyways, I've been using the ipad in my business since it came out to show properties. It replaced all the papers I used to carry around. I'm going to try it for contracts now that I've read this post though. Thanks Ryan.

Posted on Saturday, October 23rd, 2010 at 10:01am.

Ryan in AK wrote: Thanks for pointing this out. I do not currently have an iPad but have been thinking about getting one. Just wasn't sure how I could justify it while still having a laptop. This would be great for signing some initial docs we are required to sign in Alaska before showing homes.

Posted on Saturday, October 30th, 2010 at 2:44am.

Ryan Ward wrote: Hi Gloria, what forms program?

Posted on Monday, November 1st, 2010 at 9:22am.

Gloria Singer wrote: I currently use Trueforms for all contracts and disclosures etc. Then I upload to Docusign for electronic signing...Docusign does have an iPad app but I think Trueforms only runs on explorer so I guess I would need to use logmein for that? I just got the pad last week so still trying to figure it out. Our MLS only runs on IE as well but i think I can get the same listing info on Listingbook.

Posted on Monday, November 1st, 2010 at 11:05am.

Janis Gagliardi wrote: Great post Ryan! Atlanta buyers and sellers are fortunate to have such a tech savvy real estate agent such as yourself!

Posted on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 at 12:11pm.

Gary Ashton wrote: Hey Ryan,
Did I tell you about I have this as well as Zosh and both are excellent ways of using the ipad to sign contracts abd docs in PDF form :)

Just upgraded to the new software so I'll let you know if there are any issues ;)


Gary :)

Posted on Thursday, November 25th, 2010 at 12:34am.

Janis Gagliardi wrote: sounds like a good solution! I hope to get an iPAD for Xmas. Thinking about just getting the 16 GB.

Posted on Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 at 10:41am.

Michael Wise wrote: There's another tool from relevantsoftware that I use. I'm a photographer who has a constant need for capturing model and property releases while on-site. It's call Forms Tool PDF. Get it from the App Store. It's only $4.99 and it works really well for allowing you to complete, and sign, PDF forms.

Posted on Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 at 1:50pm.

Ryan Ward wrote: Hi Michael and Gary - both of these look good. Thank you.

Posted on Thursday, December 16th, 2010 at 6:38am.

Eric wrote: I have an existing form I created in MS Word, then saved as PDF. I have the iPad stylus (for the iPad) and wanted to know if I can pretty much write anywhere when visiting a client. The intent is to use the form as a template, write on per inspection and save then email it when completed on site - is that possible with this app? (specifically the save each and email) I can save uniquely modified (written on) PDF's too from my initial template?

Posted on Thursday, February 10th, 2011 at 9:11am.

Ryan Ward wrote: Hi Eric, You can. Upload that document to Takenotes and use it as a background image. you can them type or draw (write) wherever you want. You can then basically flatten the image and export it as a PDF...

Posted on Friday, February 11th, 2011 at 12:08pm.

How to Run Flash on Your iPad wrote: [...][...]

Posted on Monday, March 21st, 2011 at 10:10am.

Dean wrote: There's another app called Sign-N-Send, both in a free version and a paid version for $1.99 that works very well. The free version says it sends a page with an ad as the first page, the paid version has no ads. I just bought it and used it a minute ago and it works great. Read the instructions page, though.

Posted on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 at 10:14pm.

Kate Gorman wrote: Hi Ryan,

very intersting article. Do you need to purchase the full version of Adobe on your iPad to be able to get contracts signed? Thank you!

Posted on Thursday, March 24th, 2011 at 9:52am.

Anna King wrote: Thanks for such a great article, I'm going to have to show it to my husband. He works for a Tri-Cities real estate agency, and has been wanting to get an ipad but like so many here couldn't justify buying something that was so useless in a business setting. Now he has a great reason to get one and not feel guilty! Thanks again!

Posted on Thursday, April 7th, 2011 at 10:47am.

iPad use for service and repair technician - Page 2 - Apple iPad Forum wrote: [...]googled when I needed to sign legal paperwork that arrived as a PDF and I didn't have a printer:

How to Write and Sign PDF Contracts on an iPad

I used TakeNotes in the most basic way, probably. I just opened the PDF in the app, made a copy[...]

Posted on Thursday, June 2nd, 2011 at 3:33am.

Kay wrote: Thanks for the tip on TakeNotes. I just needed to sign some legal forms that came as a PDF, so I didn't need your instructions, but I appreciate the pointer to the app.

I used TakeNotes in the most basic way, probably. I just opened the PDF in the app, made a copy of it and signed it with my finger. Then I emailed it to the original sender and CC'd myself. Worked great!

I'm away from home without a printer, and this app saved me a lot of hassle. Yet another reason to love my iPad.

Posted on Thursday, June 2nd, 2011 at 3:40am.

iPad for real estate professionals - Apple iPad Forum wrote: [...][...]

Posted on Sunday, June 19th, 2011 at 1:36pm.

Paul Stevens wrote: Just wondering about the legal enforcement of electronic signatures collected in the ways described. Are these solutions compliant with the e-signatures act?

Posted on Friday, July 1st, 2011 at 4:07pm.

How to create forms that can be filled out - Page 5 - Apple iPad Forum wrote: [...]

Check out this link to a real estate agent who's been using iPad forms for awhile:

How to Write and Sign PDF Contracts on an iPad

I've been signing legal docs and filling out forms with the TakeNotes app, which I started using[...]

Posted on Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 at 11:02am.

Carole wrote: PDF Expert, Adobe FormsWizard and Dropbox combined was I needed.

I"m not in real estate; our reps sell almost exclusively at international trade shows, so the ability to not have to carry stacks of contracts around is a huge help. I'll make them promise to bless your name every time they pack their briefcases!

Thank you very much!

Posted on Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 at 6:18am.

Philip wrote: You might want to check out "PDF Expert"


- Philip

Posted on Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 at 4:14pm.

Ryan Ward wrote: Hi Phillip - see the updates in read. PDF Expert has been my app of choose for some time now. Works great!

Posted on Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 at 7:41pm.

Philip wrote: You are absolutely correct! I don't how I missed it reading your blog!

I suggest deleting the post about the "previous method" and go more indepth on the PDF Expert app.

When I first read your blog I didn't clue in that this app could do it all. For example, you can sign the pdf contract with your finger in the app and sync to dropbox (which you did mention) or just email it to your client right from the app!

I use an Apollo mobile hotspot from Clear with which i can have internet on my ipad2 so, no need to email when i get back to the office. The client sees the contract in his inbox before i leave his place of business.

I'm a fan :)

Posted on Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 at 1:47am.

DFox wrote: I have found I can use my IPad for almost everything RE. Flyers are a breeze to make & send. My MacBook is getting dusty...waiting on True Forms to modify for use with an IPad and then everything will be perfect!

Posted on Thursday, January 26th, 2012 at 9:14am.

paul bauer wrote: I am a realtor in Las Vegas, and would like to have ability to create and sign MLS docs in the field on an ipad. Does anyone know a way to do that. We use zipforms

Posted on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 at 10:39am.

Dave R wrote: Thanks for this article. Within a short time I had created a PDF form for our online news site for selling advertisement. No more paper for me.

Posted on Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 at 8:23pm.

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