Collect signatures in a document by using a workflow

If a document requires digital signatures from different individuals in different locations, it can be challenging to collect these signatures in a methodical and timely way. If you try to coordinate the signature process through e-mail, you may end up sending your document multiple times to the different individuals who need to sign it. You will also need to keep track of who has signed your document and who still needs to sign it.

If you use a Collect Signatures workflow on a Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 site to manage the signature collection process, you can coordinate the collection of all of the necessary signatures with one step. The Collect Signatures workflow manages and tracks all of the human tasks involved in the signature collection process, and it provides a record of the signature process after it is complete. You can start a workflow on your document directly within Microsoft Office Word 2007 or Microsoft Office Excel 2007. Additionally, workflow participants can complete their workflow tasks directly from Microsoft Office Outlook 2007.

 Important   The ability to start a Collect Signatures workflow from Office Word 2007 or Office Excel 2007 is available only in Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007, Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007, and Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007, and in the stand-alone versions of Office Word 2007 and Office Excel 2007.



How you can use a workflow to manage the digital signature process

Office SharePoint Server 2007 extends the digital signature functionality of Office Word 2007 and Office Excel 2007 by providing the Collect Signatures workflow, which you can use to manage the process of collecting many different digital signatures in a document.

How digital signatures work

In Office Word 2007 and Office Excel 2007, it is possible to insert signature lines into documents and workbooks to capture digital signatures. A signature line looks like a typical signature placeholder that might appear in a print document, but it works differently. When a signature line is inserted into an Office document, the document author can specify information about the intended signer, as well as instructions for the signer. When an electronic copy of the document is opened by the intended signer, this person sees the signature line and a notification that his or her signature is requested. The signer can click the signature line to digitally sign the document. The signer can then either type a signature, select a digital image of his or her signature, or write a signature by using the inking feature of the Tablet PC. When the signer adds a visible representation of his or her signature to the document, a digital signature is added simultaneously to authenticate the identity of the signer. After a document is digitally signed, it will become read-only to prevent modifications to its content.

Document with signed signatures lines

The ability to capture digital signatures by using signature lines in Office documents makes it possible for organizations to use paperless signing processes for documents like contracts or other agreements. Unlike signatures on paper, digital signatures can provide a record of exactly what was signed, and they allow the signature to be verified in the future. Find links to more information about digital signatures in the 2007 Office release in the See Also section.

Using a workflow to collect signatures

If you save your documents to an Office SharePoint Server 2007 site, you can easily use a Collect Signatures workflow to manage the signature collection process. By default, the Collect Signatures workflow is associated with the Document content type on an Office SharePoint Server 2007 site, and thus it is automatically available for documents in document libraries.

When you use a workflow to manage the signature collection process, the server manages all of the tasks.

Start the workflow    When you start the Collect Signatures workflow on a 2007 Office release document or workbook, you will be prompted to fill out a workflow initiation form in which you specify the names of the people who need to sign the document. The form automatically displays the names of the suggested signers who are specified within the document or workbook. You can choose to assign the signature tasks in the order in which the signatures appear, or you can assign signature tasks to all signers at once.

Complete a workflow task    After the workflow starts, the server assigns a signature task to each participant. If e-mail alerts are enabled for the server, the server also sends each participant an e-mail alert about their signature task. Participants can click the Edit this Task button in the Office Outlook 2007 task message to open the document or workbook to be signed and complete their signature task.

View the workflow status    While the Collect Signatures workflow is in progress, the workflow owner or the workflow participants can view the Workflow Status page to see which participants have completed their workflow task. When all of the workflow participants complete their workflow task, the workflow ends, and the workflow owner receives an e-mail message that the Collect Signatures workflow is complete. This e-mail message specifies the names of all of the people who have signed the document, along with the names of the people who were originally indicated as suggested signers.

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Before you begin

Starting a Collect Signatures workflow is easy: Just click the Microsoft Office Button, click Workflows, and then click Start.

But before you begin, make sure that:

  • You are working with an Office Excel 2007 workbook or Office Word 2007 document.
  • You have saved the file to a document library on an Office SharePoint Server 2007 site. For more information about saving a file to a SharePoint library, see the article Save a file to a SharePoint library or another Web location.
  • You have inserted at least one signature line in the file. The next section explains how.

If any commands in the following procedure are not available, you should know that:

  • To start a Collect Signatures workflow from directly within an 2007 Office release program, you must have at least the Edit Items permission for the library where the document is saved. Some workflows may require that you also have the Manage Lists permission to start a workflow. In other words, you need the same permissions as if you were in the browser. Check with your site owner.
  • A site owner can remove a workflow from a specific list or library. You must save the document to a list or library where the Collect Signatures workflow is available. Check with your site owner.
  • A site collection administrator can deactivate a type of workflow, such as the Collect Signatures workflow, for all sites in the site collection.
  • The ability to start a Collect Signatures workflow from Office Excel 2007 or Office Word 2007 is available only in Office Professional Plus 2007, Office Enterprise 2007, and Office Ultimate 2007, and in the stand-alone versions of Office Excel 2007 and Office Word 2007.

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Start a Collect Signatures workflow on a document

The Collect Signatures workflow differs from other predefined workflows on an Office SharePoint Server 2007 site in that you must start this workflow from within the 2007 Office release program in which the signing task will be performed. This workflow cannot be started from the document library in the browser.

 Note   If you want to ensure that workflow participants receive e-mail notifications and reminders about their workflow tasks after you start a workflow, check with your server administrator to verify that e-mail notifications have been enabled for your site.

  1. Open the document or workbook in which you want to collect digital signatures.

 Note   To start a workflow, you can open the document in either Read Only or Edit mode.

ShowOpen a server document from within an Office program

  1. Click the Microsoft Office ButtonButton image, and then click Open.
  2. Under Look in, click My Network Places or My SharePoint Sites.
  3. Click the name of the SharePoint site where your file is located, and then click Open.

 Tip   Alternately, you can double-click the name of the site to open it. You can also double-click a library or file to open it.

 Note   If you don't see your server in either category, type the URL for the server in the File name box, and then click Open.

  1. Click the name of the library that contains the file, such as Shared Documents, and then click Open.
  2. Click the name of the file that you want to open, and then click Open.
  1. If the document or workbook does not already contain signature lines to capture the digital signatures that you want to collect, insert them now.

ShowAdd a signature line

  1. In the open Office Word 2007 document or Office Excel 2007 workbook, position the cursor in your document where you want to add a signature line.
  2. On the Insert tab, in the Text group, click the arrow next to Signature Line, and then click Microsoft Office Signature Line.
  3. In the Signature Setup dialog box, type information about the person who will be signing on this signature line. This information is displayed directly beneath the signature line in the document. Do any of the following:
    • Type the signer's name in the Suggested signer box.
    • Type the signer's organizational title (if any) in the Suggested signer's title box.
    • Type the signer's e-mail address (if any) in the Suggested signer's e-mail address box.
  4. If you want to provide the signer with any instructions, type these instructions in the Instructions to signer box. These instructions are displayed in the Sign dialog box that the signer uses to sign the document.
  5. If you want the signer to be able to add comments along with the signature, select the Allow the signer to add comments in the Sign dialog check box.
  6. If you want to show the date when the signature is added in the signature line, select the Show sign date in signature line check box.
  7. Click OK.
  8. To add additional signature lines, repeat steps 1 through 7.
  1. If you add new signature lines, click the Microsoft Office Button, and then click Save to save your changes.
  2. If the document is checked out, you must also check in the document before you start the workflow. To check in the document, click the Microsoft Office Button, point to Server, and then click Check In.
  3. To start the workflow, click the Microsoft Office Button, and then click Workflows.

Workflow command

  1. In the Workflows dialog box, locate the Collect Signatures workflow, and then click Start.

Workflows dialog box

 Notes 

  • If the document is checked out to you, you will be prompted to check in the document. You will then need to try again to start the workflow.
  • If your organization has made a customized version of the Collect Signatures workflow available, the Collect Signatures workflow might have a different name.
  1. In the Workflow Name dialog box, type the names of the people who you want to sign the document on the appropriate signers lines, or click Signer to select the names of the people or groups to whom you want to assign workflow tasks.
  2. If you want to assign the signature tasks in the order in which signature lines appear in the document, select the Request signatures in the order above, rather than all at once check box.

 Note   This option is available only if the document contains more than one Microsoft Office Signature Line.

  1. If you want other people to receive notifications (not task assignments) when the workflow is started, type their names on the CC line, or click CC to select people and groups.
  2. Click Start.

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Sign a document to complete a Collect Signatures workflow task

You will probably discover that you have a task to sign a document when you receive an e-mail task notification. You can complete your task directly from the e-mail message in Office Outlook 2007.

  1. In your e-mail task message, click the Edit this Task button, and then click Open Document.

Edit this Task button in a message in Outlook

The Edit this Task button is also available at the top of a task notification when you view it in the Reading Pane.

  1. In the Message Bar that appears at the top of your active document, click Sign.

Message Bar displaying an alert about a workflow signing task

 Notes 

  • If the library where this document is saved requires documents to be checked out before they are edited, you might need to click Check Out on the Message Bar before you click Sign.
  • If your signature is requested in more than one location in the document, click View Workflow Tasks on the Message Bar. In the Workflow Tasks dialog box, select a task, and click Open to sign in a specific location. Repeat for each signature task that is listed.
  1. To add your signature to the document, in the Sign dialog box, do one of the following:
    • To add a printed version of your signature, type your name in the box next to the X.
    • To select an image of your written signature, click Select Image. In the Select Signature Image dialog box, browse to the location of your signature image file, select the file that you want, and then click Select.
    • To add a handwritten signature (Tablet PC users only), sign your name in the box next to the X by using the inking feature.
  2. In the Sign dialog box, click Sign.

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Applies to:
Excel 2007, Word 2007