Electronic signature has become table stakes for companies involved in document storage and management. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google announced an open beta of its new-ish eSignature capability in Google Workspace today. The new feature will be available specifically for Google Docs and Google Drive for individual and various group accounts.
The new feature, which had been in a limited alpha release up until now, is aimed at solopreneurs and small businesses as a way to easily collect and track digital signatures right in the document without printing, signing, scanning and emailing to get a signature.
“To help streamline this workflow, we’re natively integrating eSignature in Google Docs, allowing you to request and add signatures to official contracts, directly in Google Docs,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the new feature.
It’s nothing fancy really. It’s just an electronic signature field that you can add to the document. Other capabilities expected to be added later this year could include an audit trail report to track signatures in Google Docs documents, the ability to deal with multiple signers and send documents to people outside the Google Workspace ecosystem, and finally, being able to grab an electronic signature in a pdf of the document.
Box introduced a similar capability with Box Sign in 2021. Dropbox acquired HelloSign in 2019, but it does not bundle the feature like Box and Google.
Alan Pelz-Sharpe, founder and principal analyst at Deep Analysis, who has covered the document management space for many years, sees this move as Google just aligning with the market, and by offering it for free, giving customers the opportunity to make this part of their workflow. “It’s been on the cards now for a while that digital signature will become a bundled feature function. Box provides it as standard, now Google. Over time it’s likely Dropbox and Microsoft will do the same or at least provide an alternative to third party options,” he said.
The company will be rolling out the new feature at no cost to individual Workspace users over the next 15 days. Various group users can participate by having their Workspace admins apply for the Beta.