Simplify the tedious process of filling/signing & emailing PDFs

  • 7 April 2022
  • 1 reply
Simplify the tedious process of filling/signing & emailing PDFs
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Today’s workflow is one I built in order to scratch my own itch.

The Challenge

There’s a reimbursement form that my wife fills out fairly frequently, that she must then email to someone. It’s a fillable PDF, but when she eSigns it, the signature is small and in the middle of the box (silly Adobe Acrobat Pro for Windows). So she tends to do the old fill, print, sign, scan, email debacle. Gross.

The Solution

Let’s first look at a brief overview of the process.

In a nutshell

  1. I used SignNow to create a template that she can go to, fill out the fields (some of it is already in the document because it doesn’t change…including her signature). The Total Amount field auto-calculates based on the other ‘amount’ fields.
  2. When she’s done signing, she gets redirected to her Gmail Drafts folder (a SignNow feature). Why? I have a Zap that creates a draft with the file attached (standard file name with date at the end), To and CC filled out, along with the body, and it gets saved under a specific label she uses. Oh and the subject uses a Formatter step to add the date at the end of it.
  3. And for good measure I used a short link (via for her to get to the form. This way she can do it from anywhere, including mobile, without having to worry about finding the link.

To summarize: go to the easy-to-remember link, fill the thing out, then get redirected to the Gmail folder that will soon contain the draft email.

In SignNow

I won’t get into too much detail here, since roughly the same thing could be accomplished with other tools out there. But the gist is this:

  1. I filled out the PDF with the information that will always need to be included, and added my wife’s signature.
  2. I uploaded that PDF to SignNow and created a template, adding fields for my wife to fill out.
  3. I created a signing link, adding the redirect link (Drafts in Gmail) and specified which field to add to the PDF’s file name.

This means that every time she visits that link, she gets a fresh copy of it, ready to be filled out and submitted.

In Zapier

Let’s look at a high-level overview of what our Zap consists of.

Trigger: SignNow — Document Completed

Here, I specify which template I want to watch for completed documents, and choose YES for “Return PDF of Document” (to attach in the Gmail step).

Action: Formatter —Format Date/Time

If the form itself had a date field that was in the same format that my wife uses in her email subject line, I wouldn’t need this step. I choose the Created field from SignNow and format it as MM/DD/YYYY.

Action: Gmail — Create Draft

I chose to create the draft instead of send the email because it’s being sent to a government office. Best to make sure everything is in order before sending.

Fields I’m pre-filling: 

  • To: typed
  • CC: typed
  • Subject: typed + mapped field from Formatter step
  • Body: typed
  • Label/Mailbox: pre-selected
  • Attachment: mapped from SignNow step

In Gmail

After my wife fills out the SignNow template, she is redirected to Gmail’s Drafts folder (a tiny convenience, but not necessary), where her newly-created draft awaits her. All that’s left to do now is review it to make sure everything is correct, then send it!

Old Process vs New Process

Let’s compare the old process to the new and improved process.

Old Process

Because my wife isn’t super into automation (we’re working on it, haha) she doesn’t use a text snippet tool. So I think she was probably copying and pasting the email body and subject each time.

  1. Navigate to the PDF on her computer
  2. Open the partially-filled PDF in Adobe Acrobat
  3. Fill out the necessary fields, save the PDF
  4. Print the PDF (walk to the printer)
  5. Sign the PDF (find a pen)
  6. Re-scan the PDF (use the printer again)
  7. Go to Gmail, attach the PDF, fill out the To, CC, subject, body, and label.
  8. Send the email

New & Improved Process

This could even be done from a mobile phone, while waiting in line, or while sitting on the toilet 😂

  1. Visit the shortlink (easy to remember)
  2. Fill out the necessary fields, click Done, be redirected to Gmail
  3. Review email and send it.

Wrapping Up

There you have it. Automation won’t always be glamorous or exciting, but when it can help you do less of the tedious busywork, it really does start to feel pretty magical :)