NIH has deadlines three times each year, and we finished an application for the December 5th deadline. Below is a mind-map that shows many of the components required for the application. The section on the left, “Online Proposal Preparation” is a one-time set up sequence, however, you should figure that you need 60 days before the deadline to complete those steps. There is nothing to preclude working on other parts of the application while you are waiting to get set up in the Central Contracting Registry. Click on the image it view it full scale.
Most of the sections on the right require creating Adobe .PDF files. We created these in Word 2007 (saving the files as .doc files), which was our working environment, not least because we used the EndNote add-in to for footnotes and literature citations.