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Why Use PDF?
Why Have PDF Requirements?
Software Requirements
Warnings and Rules
Acceptable Formats
Creating PDF Files
Creating PostScript Files
Creation Tips and Pointers
PDF Resource Links
Using TeX And LaTeX

For Proposal Preparation and Project Reporting


Introduction to Uploading Files

Portable Document Format (PDF) files, if created properly, allow users on different platforms (e.g., Windows, Mac, and UNIX) to view files as originally intended by the author. Non-PDF files may be uploaded using FastLane. They will then automatically be converted to PDF files.

Uploading files is the preferred method and will ensure that the resulting PDF files meet FastLane's formatting requirements. It is not necessary to create a PDF file to upload. If you still wish to create PDF files, you must ensure that the formatting requirements are met.

For more information, see the File Upload Instructions (Opens new window).

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Why Is NSF Using PDF?

Proposals often contain images, graphics, equations, and various character sets (e.g., Greek letters). At least one-quarter of NSF proposal writers work in each of the following platforms: Windows, Macs, and UNIX. PDF offers reproducible results and multiplatform support for viewing and printing by reviewers and NSF staff (again, if the original files contain the proper format). No other mature document type permits easy viewing by reviewers and allows authors to retain margins; keep pagination and line breaks; generate files in various word processors on PCs, Macs and UNIX systems; include and display equations; and maintain control of the position and compression of images.

For reviewers and NSF staff to be read your file, as originally intended, your PDF file must be complete (e.g., it must contain embedded in the file all non-standard font characters that you used). Otherwise, PDF viewers will substitute other fonts that may or may not appropriately represent the original characters author used.

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Why Have PDF Formatting Requirements?

NSF requires PDF files for the Project Description of a proposal and allows PDF files for many other sections of a proposal. To view an entire proposal, FastLane takes the files you submit; creates PDF files from the cover sheet, budget, and sections where the user preferred to enter data directly through the web; and combines it all into one file for viewing and printing. This single document is the one that NSF and reviewers commonly use to evaluate your proposal or project report.

Combining PDF files created in different manners and different platforms can have unintended results unless all the PDF files adhere to the FastLane requirements. NSF has received more than 300,000 PDF files through FastLane, and most of these combine without problems. While occasional problems may still result from the merging process, users can check for this by viewing the combined PDF file through FastLane before submitting the proposal. Since the resulting file may still be using fonts on your machine that will not be available to others, you should view the resulting file on another machine or, if using Adobe Acrobat Exchange 4.x or 5.x, turn off local fonts.

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If any of the links in this document are outdated, please notify the FastLane Help Desk.
Suggestions for additions or revisions to this document may be sent to flpdf@nsf.gov.

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