It's time to kill PDF contracts and embrace e-contracts. Here are 6 reasons why.

The future of contract handling is 100% web-based, HTML contracts. Or what we’d love to call them as e-contracts.

As businesses begin to realize the benefits of digitizing their biggest assets – contracts – it also marks the beginning of the end of PDF contracts.

PDF contract is not future proof. Surely you can attach an electronic signature to your PDF file and call it a “digital contract”, but you will not experience the benefits of a true “digital contract” based on HTML (e-contract).

PDF is an image format. Think about it: why do you want to see a picture of paper when you are sitting in front of your computer screen? At Oneflow, we believe that PDF contracts will more or less die out within the next 10 years.

For starters, PDF is an abbreviation for Portable Document Format. The biggest advantage of PDF is that it retains the exact appearance of a document, no matter what platform is used to view or print it.

HTML – which is what e-contract is all about – is the language of the Web. HTML documents are thus designed for on-screen viewing and interactivity. They are intended to be accessed via computers whenever needed rather than to be printed.

For many, choosing to work with PDF contracts is often a decision made out of convenience rather than rationale. In this recent research by Jakob Nielsen, PDF has some serious usability issues and is “unfit for human consumption”.

Click to download "the future of contracts" infographic.

If you are still deciding whether to stick to the old PDF contracts or to favor e-contracts, here are the six major factors to consider.

Readability on mobile devices

  • PDF contract is not responsive – you will need to zoom in and scroll to read a contract on your smartphone
  • E-contract is responsive and looks stunning regardless of screen size
PDF contract

Data portability

  • PDF contract is like an image – you cannot easily extract any data from your contract
  • E-contract is, uh well, digital – you can easily extract and export contract data to be accessed somewhere else, such as in your CRM system


  • Yeah okay, you may be able to search for a certain term or phrase in your PDF contract if you add “fields” on it but you cannot do a search across all your PDF contracts in one go
  • You do not need to add fields on e-contracts – every word is searchable like the Internet! Plus you can search and filter by tags, date or keyword across all your e-contracts in one go – it’s like googling for your contracts with spreadsheet functions

Integrity of content

  • PDF contracts can be easily modified by others without leaving any digital footprints if this is not set up properly from the start – even if it is set up properly, it is difficult to enforce control
  • E-contracts give the author full control to determine what and who can modify the contract plus providing a complete audit trail

Risks of error

  • Creating new PDF contracts often requires you to find the source file, most probably in Word, then edit as you wish, and do a Save as PDF – of which during the process, there is nothing to check for errors or to prevent unintentional removal of important paragraphs
  • E-contract templates are centralized and dynamic, allowing the author to lock certain sections and control parts that are modifiable – making sure that there is minimal risk of error and compliance to rules and policies

Version handling

  • PDF contract is as static as a paper contract, you can add comments but it all can end up pretty messy as more stakeholders are involved – plus there is no easy way to tell if every user has worked on the latest version of the contract
  • Everything around an e-contract is tracked and only the latest version is worked on – plus every user is notified when someone has interacted with the contract

Ask us anything about e-contracts

Want to know more about e-contracts or the future of contract handling? We’d love to hear from you.