Converting Your Documents to PDFs

NEH requires that applicants submit their attachments to as portable document format (.pdf).



Tips for Creating PDF Files in Grants.Gov Applications

  • PDF is a standard format for sharing data, and it is possible to convert many common file formats (Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, etc.) to PDF using a wide variety of PDF-creating applications, sometimes called distillers. In fact, PDF conversion has been built into Microsoft Office since 2007. Some third-party PDF converters are free, many are quite inexpensive -- and some are better than others. If you use one of these applications, be sure to test the results -- make sure that you and others can open and view the resulting PDF files using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software.


  • If you scan something to create a PDF file, do not scan it at higher resolution than you need. NEH applications are typically read online by reviewers and panelists, so an image or letter scanned at 100 dpi (dots or pixels per inch) will display clearly on a computer monitor or tablet. An image scanned at higher resolution (300+ dpi) will result in a much larger file, but it will not usually result in a better-quality display when viewed on a monitor or tablet. In addition, these large files may cause problems for viewing or downloading your application. This is as true of photographs, drawings, and blueprints as it is of letters, résumés, etc. In short, avoid high resolutions when scanning anything in order to turn it into PDF.


  • If you scan text -- e.g. a letter or résumé or curriculum vitae -- do not scan it as an image, even a relatively low-resolution image. Text should be scanned as text, using an optical character recognition (OCR) application, because text data is much more compact than image data. Scanning text with OCR software allows you to edit the text after it has been scanned, and allows you (and those reading your application) to search for text within the document. Neither of these things can be done if you scan the text and save it as an image.


  • If you convert images to PDF (photographs, architectural drawings, maps, etc.), make sure that they are not larger than they need to be. As mentioned above, applications are typically read online, so there is no need for your images to be larger than will display in a computer monitor or tablet. And large images may cause problems for viewing or downloading your application. If your image must be seen at very high resolution, make it available on the web and embed a link to it in a PDF file, rather than including it in your application (see the next bulleted item).


  • If you need to include large media files in your application -- high-resolution images, video or sound files, or splashy multi-color reports -- consider embedding links to these resources in your PDF files rather than including them in your application. Of course this means that those resources must be accessible via the web -- on your website or in some other place that can be reached with a web browser. Your PDF file would then contain links to these resources rather than the resources themselves. Since the applications are typically reviewed online, the resources will be easily accessible to reviewers and panelists as they read your application.


  • The software you need to view and print PDF files (Adobe Acrobat Reader) is freely available, but not everyone has the most recent version of this software. And the PDF standard has evolved over the years -- new features are added with each version. Remember these facts when you create PDF files. Do not create PDF files that can only be read with the most recent version(s) of the free Acrobat Reader. The better PDF-creating applications allow you to specify the version of PDF that the software will produce. The current version is 1.7 (supported by Acrobat Reader 10.x and higher).


  • Do not include any security in your PDF files. Make sure that the files are not read-only and that they are not encrypted or password-protected.


  • Do not attach PDF portfolios to your application. This is a feature added to the PDF standard as of version 1.6, and it allows you to include or attach child PDF files within a parent file. This may be a convenient way of bundling files, but portfolios cause problems with many PDF readers. If you want to combine two or more PDFs into a single file, use the Combine files into a single PDF functionality on Acrobat, and choose Single PDF file rather than Portfolio as the output.