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E-signing PDF documents with iTextSharp

, 17 Jun 2006 LGPL3
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An example demonstrating how to sign PDF documents with the iTextSharp library.

Sample Image - Esignature.jpg


In this article, I will present a simple source code allowing you to digitally sign a PDF document and modify its metadata. I will use the excellent and free port of iText library: iTextSharp that can be downloaded here. You'll need Visual Studio 2005 to be able to open and build the project.

If you don’t know what digital signatures are or how they work, you can go here or here, or simply ask Google Smile | :)

iTextSharp provides a lot of interesting features to create and manipulate PDF documents, but in this article, we will only use digital signature functions. I will also use some function to manipulate PKCS#12 certificates; the only thing you need to know here is that our digital signature will use a private key extracted from a PKCS#12 certificate.

Getting started

So the first thing you have to do is to install a certificate on your browser. If you don’t have one, you can install the demo certificate from here. Then, extract the PKCS#12 certificate as described below:

  • Open Internet Explorer and click on Tools, then Internet Options.
  • Go to the 'Content' tab and click 'Certificates'.
  • Choose a certificate from the list and click Export.
  • Follow the wizard, and when asked, choose to include private key with the extracted certificate.
  • Enter a password when prompted (don't give an empty one!!!)

You are now ready to use the code provided in this article. Using the signature example:

  1. Compile and run the example.
  2. Browse to the PDF source file you want to sign.
  3. Browse and choose a destination PDF file.
  4. Add/modify the PDF meta data if you want.
  5. Browse to the certificate (the .pfx file) you just extracted and choose it.
  6. Give the password you used to extract the certificate.
  7. Add signature information if needed (reason, contact, and location).
  8. Click the Sign button.

In the debug box, you’ll see the operation’s progress. If everything goes well, open your explorer and browse to the location you entered for the target file, open this file with Adobe Acrobat reader, and your document is signed! =).

Now, how will all this work?

In the source code provided with this article, I wrote a library called PDFSigner. It’s a helper package that uses iTextSharp and doed everything you need for digital signatures. It contains three classes:

  • Cert: this class is used to hold a certificate and extract the needed information for the signature; the most important method in this class is processCert (will be explained below).
  • MetaData: holds the PDF metadata.
  • PDFSigner: the construction of this class takes a Cert object and, if needed, a MetaData object. The most important method here is the Sign method (will be explained below).

processCet method

private void processCert()
    string alias = null;
    PKCS12Store pk12;

    //First we'll read the certificate file
    pk12 = new PKCS12Store(new FileStream(this.Path, FileMode.Open, 
                               FileAccess.Read), this.password.ToCharArray());

    //then Iterate throught certificate entries to find the private key entry
    IEnumerator i = pk12.aliases();
    while (i.MoveNext())
        alias = ((string)i.Current);
        if (pk12.isKeyEntry(alias))

    this.akp = pk12.getKey(alias).getKey();
    X509CertificateEntry[] ce = pk12.getCertificateChain(alias);
    this.chain = new org.bouncycastle.x509.X509Certificate[ce.Length];
    for (int k = 0; k < ce.Length; ++k)
        chain[k] = ce[k].getCertificate();

This method reads the certificate and iterates through its entries to find the private key entry, then extracts it. It also construct the certificate's chain if available.

Sign method

public void Sign(string SigReason, string SigContact, string SigLocation, bool visible)
    PdfReader reader = new PdfReader(this.inputPDF);
    //Activate MultiSignatures
    PdfStamper st = PdfStamper.CreateSignature(reader, 
       new FileStream(this.outputPDF, FileMode.Create, FileAccess.Write), '\0', null, true);
    //To disable Multi signatures uncomment this line :
    //     every new signature will invalidate older ones !
    //PdfStamper st = PdfStamper.CreateSignature(reader, 
      new FileStream(this.outputPDF, FileMode.Create, FileAccess.Write), '\0'); 

    st.MoreInfo = this.metadata.getMetaData();
    st.XmpMetadata = this.metadata.getStreamedMetaData();
    PdfSignatureAppearance sap = st.SignatureAppearance;
    sap.SetCrypto(this.myCert.Akp, this.myCert.Chain, null, 
    sap.Reason = SigReason;
    sap.Contact = SigContact;
    sap.Location = SigLocation;
    if (visible)
        sap.SetVisibleSignature(new iTextSharp.text.Rectangle(100, 100, 250, 150), 1, null);

This function reads the content of a given PDF, then it uses the read data to create a new PDF using PDFStamper. PDFStamper is a PDF Writer that can sign PDF documents. The signature appearance can be configured so you can add a reason, a contact, and a location attribute to the signature. The SetCrypto method allows us to sign the document using the private key and chain certificate we extracted from the certificate file. And finally, SetVisibleSignature is used if you need to add a visible signature to the document. PDFReader, PDFStamper and PdfSignatureAppearance are provided by the iTextSharp library.

Well, that’s all for now Smile | :) I hope that you found my first article useful … If you have any questions or have any problems to build/run this example, don’t hesitate to post a comment.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPLv3)


About the Author

Alaa-eddine KADDOURI
Technical Lead
France France
No Biography provided

Comments and Discussions

QuestionVerify the signature? PinmemberMember 30546992-Mar-15 7:57 
QuestionsetCrypto PinmemberDara Keon8-Jan-15 6:32 
Bugsouci de l'auteur PinmemberMember 1122180924-Nov-14 4:43 
Questioni get error stating that signature defined, must be closed within signatureappearance PinmemberMember 107366893-Jun-14 8:27 
AnswerRe: i get error stating that signature defined, must be closed within signatureappearance PinmemberRavindra Sadaphule9-Aug-14 23:15 
GeneralRe: i get error stating that signature defined, must be closed within signatureappearance PinmemberMember 1073668912-Aug-14 5:33 
QuestionRevision label and picture as signature PinmemberRui Frazao26-Feb-14 1:18 
QuestionNot able to download source code since last 2 months using my credentials PinmemberMember 104391409-Feb-14 3:34 
QuestionCreate pfx file for domain users Pinmemberrilov10-Oct-13 11:59 
GeneralThanks a lot PinmemberMember 941865011-Sep-13 6:13 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberRok Banko2-Sep-13 4:56 
GeneralThanks man. PinmemberMember 59097829-May-13 22:47 
QuestionWhat to do when PKCS #12 cert is not available PinmemberHarvey Flaisher27-Mar-13 14:08 Pinmemberewerton.4722-Feb-13 5:35 
AnswerRe: PinmemberCajie6-Mar-13 8:34 
QuestionRe: [modified] PinmemberMember 1005027913-May-13 22:16 
QuestionThank you PinmemberKalpana Volety11-Jan-13 12:38 
QuestionSignature not valid Pinmembersodakdoogie12-Dec-12 6:42 
QuestionFantasic piece of code Pinmemberzaxbowow12-Oct-12 7:36 
Thank you!
QuestionProtected pdf with Password Pinmemberanismanoula2-Oct-12 6:33 
AnswerRe: Protected pdf with Password PinmemberAlaa-eddine KADDOURI11-Oct-12 4:01 
QuestionProblem with certificates PinmemberMelechDavid5-Jul-12 6:33 
AnswerRe: Problem with certificates PinmemberAlaa-eddine KADDOURI5-Jul-12 7:34 
GeneralRe: Problem with certificates PinmemberMelechDavid5-Jul-12 23:37 
Questiongot NullReferenceException while trying sample code Pinmemberai_mueller10-Sep-11 13:10 
AnswerRe: got NullReferenceException while trying sample code PinmemberAlaa-eddine KADDOURI10-Sep-11 13:16 
GeneralBut it does not hv an option to signa selected page PinmemberSujit Soni31-May-11 10:07 
GeneralRe: But it does not hv an option to signa selected page PinmemberAlaa-eddine KADDOURI31-May-11 10:21 
GeneralCertificate Error PinmemberelBaz24-Mar-11 9:34 
GeneralRe: Certificate Error PinmemberelBaz24-Mar-11 9:56 
GeneralRe: Certificate Error PinmemberAlaa-eddine KADDOURI24-Mar-11 10:56 
GeneralRe: Certificate Error PinmemberelBaz24-Mar-11 13:17 
GeneralRe: Certificate Error PinmemberAlaa-eddine KADDOURI24-Mar-11 14:13 
GeneralRe: Certificate Error PinmemberelBaz24-Mar-11 17:06 
GeneralRe: Certificate Error PinmemberAlaa-eddine KADDOURI25-Mar-11 4:43 
GeneralNew version of itextsharp PinmemberChristatos2-Feb-11 23:40 
AnswerRe: New version of itextsharp Pinmemberla_morte5-Feb-11 8:12 
GeneralByte[] to File.pdf PinmemberMember 362262327-Oct-10 14:12 
GeneralRe: Byte[] to File.pdf PinmemberAlaa-eddine KADDOURI27-Oct-10 23:22 
GeneralRe: Byte[] to File.pdf PinmemberMember 362262327-Oct-10 23:32 
GeneraliSafePDF v1.3.0 is out PinmemberAlaa-eddine KADDOURI3-Sep-10 3:44 
GeneralSigning with store certificate Pinmemberashishdhingra9-Aug-10 20:26 
GeneralRe: Signing with store certificate Pinmemberluisvilc2612-Aug-10 17:35 
Generalinvisible signature if cert is installed Pinmemberbbembi_de19-Jul-10 0:24 
GeneralNew article about digital signature PinmemberAlaa-eddine KADDOURI2-Jun-10 10:23 
GeneralRe: New article about digital signature Pinmemberashishdhingra23-Jun-10 21:15 
GeneralRe: New article about digital signature PinmemberAlaa-eddine KADDOURI24-Jun-10 0:21 
GeneralNew version available PinmemberAlaa-eddine KADDOURI23-Apr-10 3:51 
GeneralRe: New version available Pinmemberluisvilc2613-May-10 18:25 
GeneralRe: New version available Pinmemberluisvilc2616-May-10 19:37 

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