Electronic Submission > Avoiding Common Errors > PDF Guidelines

Avoiding Common Errors

PDF Issues: Guidelines

To avoid PDF problems, keep these guidelines in mind:

  1. NIH only accepts attachments in PureEdge or PDF format. Do not submit attachments in other formats such as Microsoft Word, Word Perfect, etc. Other formats may be allowed through Grants.gov but are not accepted by NIH.

  2. It is recommended that applicants avoid scanning text documents to produce the required PDFs whenever possible. Instead, NIH recommends producing the documents electronically using text or word-processing software and then converting documents to PDF. Scanning paper documents, without the proper Optical Character Recognition (OCR) process, will hamper automated processing of your application for NIH analysis and reporting. For additional information on PDF conversion software, visit the Grants.gov website: http://www.grants.gov/agencies/software.jsp#3.

  3. A 0 byte attachment is an invalid PDF.

  4. Only use standard characters in file names:
    A through Z, a through z, and 0 through 9, Hyphen (-), underscore ( _ ).

  5. Disable all security features in the PDF document.
    Protected documents prevent NIH from opening and processing the document. Security settings vary by PDF tool, but please ensure security settings are not marked. The applicant needs to look at the Document Security tab under Document Properties (directly from the tab) and set the security parameters to ensure open access so NIH can process the content. For instance, do not password protect the document and do not mark Content Extraction or Copying; Document Assembly, etc as “Not Allowed.”

  6. If you are having trouble fixing the PDF settings, simply cut and paste from the PDF document into a Microsoft Word document and then reconvert (in some cases it may be better to use another PDF converter).

  7. One of the PDF tools that have been working without issue for most applicants is CutePDF.

  8. Do not include any information in the header or footer area of the attachments. A header will be system-generated that references the name of the PD/PI. Page numbers for the footer will be system-generated in the complete application, with all pages sequentially numbered. Applicants are encouraged to use Section Headings within the document.

  9. Applicants can include active links in PDFs, but the links must display a valid URL within the document.

    There are three ways to successfully include active links:

    1. Use the Microsoft Word hyperlink feature and display the actual URL text e.g. NIH (http://www.nih.gov/)

    2. Manually type in the URL.
    e.g. http://www.nih.gov/

    3. If authoring documents directly in Adobe Professional, use the insert hyperlink feature.

    Please be aware that using the Microsoft Word hyperlink feature and displaying text instead of the actual URL will result in an error, e.g. displaying NIH instead of NIH (http://www.nih.gov/) or http://www.nih.gov/.

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