blog

An assortment of thoughts.  Mostly tech related.

Sign documents on your iPhone in Mail.app

iOS 9 has brought with it a load of minor improvements contributing to a bigger overall general improvement to reliability and features, making our iPhones and iPads more useful and versatile every day.  Sadly, many of the updates aren't immediately apparent unless you go digging.  Here's something I discovered yesterday that will be valuable to most.

How many times have you been emailed a PDF form to sign and all you have is your iPhone or iPad handy?

Many great tools exist to do this simple task in a third-party way.  Notably, I've been a long time user of Smile software's products for iOS including PDFPen for iPhone and iPad.  Now the ability to sign a document is something that iOS has built into the native Mail.app.

Many will be aware of the new markup features in Mail.  These tools allow you to markup images and documents in ways similar to that of tools like Skitch and Napkin for the Mac.  Scribbling on a map, pointing out a problem in an image by drawing circles and arrows, or just drawing a little sketch to illustrate a point are all easily done with these tools.  What you may be less aware of is the inclusion of a signature feature within the new markup tool in Mail.app that allows you to sign documents (and perform other markup tasks) all without leaving the app.

Here's how you do it:

1. Open Mail.app, locate the email in question and open the attachment that needs signing.

Tap the document once to reveal the Share sheet and new Markup Toolbox icons in the menu bar at the bottom if the screen. (Note: If the toolbox icon doesn't appear, try performing a long tap on the document and then choose 'Markup' from the context menu that appears where you've tapped).

The markup screen appears.  At the bottom of the Markup screen you have a number of tools:

From left to right, there's a Pen/Pencil tool which allows you to draw on the document, enabling you to choose different colours and line thicknesses for your drawing implement of choice.  Next is the Magnifying Loupe - something you can drag over the document or image to enlarge areas to reveal detail without having to pinch and zoom.  Next is a Text tool that allows you to drop chunks of text onto your PDF or image -  handy for filling out form fields.

Lastly, is the Signature Tool - tap it and you'll see the following:

A nice big area to do your best finger signature!  Good luck and use a stylus if you have one. Tap Done and you've created a new signature that you can sign PDFs over and over with.  (Note: Revisiting the signature button allows you to create additional signatures or select any previously saved ones to drop into subsequent marked up documents.)

You'll be returned to the document and have the opportunity to drag your signature around and using the controls at the corners of the image, scale and resize to fit. 

Then you should have something that looks like this.  Hit Done when you're done, and Mail will save the markup changes to a new, modified file all ready to send.  Easy!


HTML signatures in Apple's Mail.app - Installing with Applescript

The power of Twitter, huh?

A few weeks back I'd been exploring ways of creating decent looking autosignatures and installing them in Apple's Mail.app in Mountain Lion.

The process as outlined over at mydesignpad.com details a fairly complex installation procedure, which, in my view is something beyond the average end user and so the alternative is for a technical person to do it manually on each machine, for each user...also having to create a unique HTML sig file for each too.

Now, I've only get 15 or so users to take care of and so it wouldn't be the end of the world if I had to do it manually. But, I figured there had to be a better way, perhaps using AppleScript, which'd be just great - if I knew AppleScript.

Here's where Twitter steps in. I posted up the following:

...and within a few hours I had a reply from a super-helpful, fellow Mac guru in NYC saying it should be fairly simple to do.

What followed was a series of twitter exchanges, then Google Talk sessions and emails and a very short while later we had a script to work with.

The script works with a customised version of the HTML sig and then follows ALL of the steps detailed in myDesignPad's guide including prompting the user for their name, email address and job title etc and then customising and installing the HTML sig. The script also allows the sig file to be mounted online, meaning the script can execute from any machine anywhere - also great for future updates.

We had a few hiccups with write permissions but then arranged a screen sharing session to troubleshoot, which cleared up a couple more issues.

We still have a niggling issue with it running on MY profile - for some reason it fails to update the signature fil (See update #2 below). It does however work FINE under other profiles on this machine (weird), but we're well on our way to fixing it and having a proper, automated way of installing new, personalised HTML autosignatures in Mail.app in seconds.

I'll check with the script's author to see if she's happy for me to share it here, but it just goes to show how useful Twitter can be when you're in a bind. Lots of helpful people out there...my great thanks to @seesolve

Update: Here's @seesolve's Mail.app autosignature solution using AppleScript to my problem. There's download links to the script along with a how-to guide on getting it installed and customised. Again, very impressed with the professionalism and determination applied to this problem. My thanks, again. ;)

Update #2: OK. So, we worked out where the bug was thanks to this post by Matt Coneybeare -see the comments. In particular the comment referred to in step 8. The issue crops up when you have iCloud Documents and Data sharing enabled. When this is the case, the signature is written to an iCloud location rather than to the normal signature location in the library. Working to get the script modified to fix it.