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Best Practice for Preparing Documents for Digital Processing


As organizations go from using paper documents with wet ink for signatures to digital and electronic signatures, many simply re-purpose their old forms and contracts for digital use. This is perfectly fine. However, as some of our customers discovered, versions of documents used for manual or paper processing don’t always transfer well into the digital world. Most common issues include spacing between lines and not enough space to write information in or enter your signature, to name a few.  Naturally, it becomes problematic for parties to read and execute contracts clearly and cleanly.


After helping so many customers, ZorroSign has compiled following 11 best practices for preparing documents for digital processing. These tips can be used to convert an existing document or start a new one from scratch.  If you feel we have missed a tip, please let us know in the comment section.


  1. Use a Word Processor like Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. You can use other software programs just as long as they provide you tools to better control the spacing, margins, placement of fields to enter data, and letterhead. We do highly recommend that you use your letterhead as your base document.
  2. Margins: Minimum 1″ margin all around is highly recommended.
  3. Document header: Put the title of the document or form (if you want it repeated on every page), your logo, form number, version number and other static information.  On a multi-page document some prefer not to repeat the title on every page to save space, which is perfectly okay.
  4. Document Footer: Put divider bar on top of the footer space, page number, place for initials, contact information that is again static. We learned that our customers prefer their parties to initial on every page especially on legal documents and therefore putting initials in footer is the best solution.
  5. Leave at least one row worth of white space between the header and start of text and end of text and the footer. Also anticipate maximum length of data that can be entered in every field and give sufficient space for that. For example, for address anticipate the longest street and city name.
  6. Set line spacing to 1.5 between lines where you want users to enter data. The rest of the document can have the standard 1″ line spacing. Make sure your document is legible and readable. This is especially important as we become a paperless society, we will be reading documents on screens of laptops, tablets, and mobile devices.
  7. Be generous with pages of your document. As we go digital we will print less and less pages so it does not matter how long your document is. Of course, we can always print back to back if we really must print.
  8. Create a signature section or page and use tables with rows and columns for users to enter their name, company name, title, signature, and date as appropriate for your document. It is very important that there is sufficient space for people to put their signature especially if they prefer to use their finger on a touch screen.
  9. Leave some space on the last page for corporate seals, security tokens like the ZorroSign 4n6 (Forensics) Security Token.
  10. Lastly, remember that your document will be used in a digital transaction (workflow and automation) think how people will be handling the document when it comes to creating a template out of the old paper document, for signing digitally, entering data, and version controlling.
  11. Before you upload a document into ZorroSign, see the document in Print Preview to make sure the page brakes, spacing, alignment is correct. We found Page Break to be the biggest culprit when converting Word Documents into PDF files.


We have taken the liberty of creating a sample document using all the tips mentioned in this article. Click here to download the Microsoft Word document in a .zip file.


Last Updated: Jan 24, 2019

Last month, when ZorroSign launched its Green initiative called Paperless Life, I wrote an article about the environmental impact of using office paper. The impact on the environment is significant in terms of conservation of water, energy, and trees as well as reduction of Carbon footprint. For the organizations adopting #PaperlessLife strategy, there are tangible and intangible benefits for the company and its employees. In this article I will analyze the business impact of using office paper for business transactions, specifically the financial impact.


Challenges and Cost Factors

Almost every business process that involves document signatures is either fully manual or partially digital. The use case in this context is a combination of: Print-Sign-Scan-Email or FedEx. (Choose your favorite courier service). If it’s a document for a loan of any kind with co-signers, repeat the use case above for every signatory.


Because no two businesses are the same, it is better to provide a framework for cost calculation. We will consider each component of this use case for our framework for cost analysis.


Cost Analysis Framework


Copy paper
$5 / pack of 500 sheets

B/W: $8,000
Color: $4,500

Printer Ink (per printer)

B/W: $250 50k pages
Color: $360 20k pages


Included w/Printer/WorkCenter


$99.06 /Month/printer

Steel file cabinets

$600 average / Cabinet

Folders & stationery

$300 / Year/Employee
$1000/Year/Employee (Law Firm)

Courier services

$33,000 to $65,000/Year

Man hours, Time

260 hours/ Employee/Year

Off-site paper storage

$0.72 /Box/Month
$864/100 Boxes/Yr.

Office space (file cabinets)

15 Sq.Ft (standard 4-drawer file cabinet)
Avg. $50 /Sq.Ft = $9000/Year

Insurance (Data Breach Policy)

$12k to $120k /Year
size of company, includes cyber attack coverage.


Applying the Cost Analysis Framework

Costs of using paper may vary from one company to another. However, it is very clear that the cost is significant relative to the size of the company. The overall business impact of using office paper is tremendous. We highly recommend to apply the above framework to your business situation and calculate cost as accurately as you can. Then compare that cost to purchasing and using an eSignature and Digital Transaction Management system. Click here to check out ZorroSign Plans & Pricing.



People have been toying around with the idea of a Smart City.  Some Asian countries have good success with Smart City. As we hear more about Smart Cities, digital. transformation, security, and privacy of data I can’t help but think that Smart Cities are a great way to completely change the way we live our lives at some level. Smart Cities and #PaperlessLife. There is no place for paper in a smart city.

Imagine a world without printers, toner, scanners, ink pen, and paper. Stretch your imagination a little and imagine a world without paper books, book shelves, news papers, magazines, file cabinets, manila folders, staplers, 3-hole punch, business cards, paper clips (Microsoft’s Clippy will be out of a job).

Your office is located in a smart city. Now imagine your office without a printer. No its not hiding in a closet, it just does not exist. Your company never bought it because they are not available for purchase if you live in a smart city.

In the smart city, every business transaction is conducted electronically. You sign rental agreements, medical forms, consent forms, employment letters, and taxes. Everything.

However, the barrier to entry is trust. How do you trust that the document you are signing will not be tampered with or your signature will not be forged post-execution. Furthermore, when you receive an officially signed document, how do you make sure the document is legit and has not been tampered with. The answer is ZorroSign 4n6 Token. Document DNA based document forensics information that’s built on a private Blockchain that detects forgery and fraud in documents.

It is possible to have a smart city that is completely paperless and where document transactions are protected.



A document is sent out as an email attachment asking the recipient to “sign it and send it back.” A new hire packet is sent out for acknowledgement and signature with 52 pages in it. A sales contract is sent out for approvals to multiple people before it goes to the customer. A real estate transaction requires multiple people sign a huge stack of papers. Non-disclosure agreements, invoices, service agreements, and consent forms; they all are sent out for signatures and approvals. All of these “business transactions” involve 2 or more individuals to sign. Most of these cases result in Print-Sign-Scan or Ship then Print-or-Copy-and-store away. A number of businesses have started using some form of eSignature solution but still insist on printing a copy for backup. With average document retention policy being 7 years, office floors are lined with huge steel file cabinets. On average one office worker uses roughly 9000 sheets of copy paper in a single year.


In this article I will focus on environmental impact of using physical paper for all such business transactions. In the next installment, I will cover the analysis of hard cost associated with using paper.


Trees or Wood

It is estimated that one tree produces roughly between 8000 and 8333 (average 8166) regular copy paper. Considering that most of the world uses A4 size paper, the number would be close to 8000 or less. This number assumes a certain size of tree. It does not take into consideration many other types of trees with varied shapes and sizes. Assuming 8166 pages per tree, an office of 100 employees would use about 113 trees worth of paper each year which amounts to roughly 1.25 MM lbs (569.5 kg) of wood each year. As you can see how quickly these numbers add up.



It is estimated that a paper manufacturing plant would use about 3 gallons of non-recycled water to produce one sheet of copy paper or 1.5 gallons of recycled water. Using the example of wood usage above, a typical office of 100 employees would be responsible for using roughly 2.77 MM gallons of water per year to use all that office paper.


Carbon Emission

Calculating Carbon footprint for a life of a copy paper (from a tree getting chopped off, going through the manufacturing process, to distribution) is a very difficult task due to the complex nature of all the processes involved. The fact that every paper manufacturer produces a wide variety of paper products adds to this complexity. However, one factor that makes it easy to estimate Carbon emission is the fuel consumption during transportation of documents for signature. This means trucks, cars, and airplanes used by the courier services like FedEx. Based on the above example, this single office would be responsible for roughly 629 tons of Carbon emission per year.


How Can You Help?

Consider living a Paperless Life! Step 1 is to know how much you could be saving based on your current use of paper. ZorroSign has developed an Environmental Savings Calculator which lets users estimate how many trees, how much water consumption can be saved, and how much carbon emissions can be avoided in less miles driven by going paperless. In the calculator, simply enter the number of documents your company sends out for signature and number of documents your company signs every week – and the calculator will show you estimated savings per year in terms of trees, water, Carbon emission, time, and cost.


According to SBE Council, there are over 5.8 million employer firms in the United States and firms with fewer than 500 workers account for 99 percent of all businesses. If all those businesses convert even 25% of their paper document transactions to all-digital it could mean tremendous reduction in number of trees saved, reduction in water consumption, and a significant reduction in the Carbon footprint.