Submitted papers must be no longer than 14 single-spaced pages, including figures, tables, and references. Papers should be formatted in 2 columns, using 10 point type on 12 point leading, in a text block of 6.5" by 9".Another one:
Submissions must be full papers, at most 14 single-spaced 8.5" x 11" pages, including figures, tables, and references, two-column format, using 10-point type on 12-point (single-spaced) leading, with a maximum text block of 6.5" wide x 9" deep with 0.25" intercolumn space.Yet another (from SIGCOMM 2009):
- Submissions MUST be no more than fourteen (14) pages in 10 point Times Roman (or equivalent font). This length includes everything: figures, tables, references, appendices and so forth.
- Submissions MUST follow ACM guidelines: double column, with each column 9.25" by 3.33", 0.33" space between columns.
- Each column MUST contain no more than 55 lines of text.
- NOTE: For the submission, you may use the following LaTeX template to ensure compliance.
- The final copy will be 12 pages using the SIGCOMM standard 9 pt format; this is less than what you might be able to fit in 14 pages at 10pt, and so there is no value in pushing the envelope.
- Provide an abstract of fewer than 200 words.
- Number the pages.
- Do not identify the papers' authors, per the Anonymity Guidelines.
- On the front page, in place of the authors' names, the paper MUST indicate: the paper ID number assigned during the paper registration process and the total number of pages in the submission.
- The paper MUST be submitted in PDF format. Other formats (including Postscript) will not be accepted. We must be able to display and print your submission exactly as we receive it, using only standard tools (Adobe Acrobat Reader), with no loading of special fonts.
- Make sure that the paper prints well on black-and-white printers, not color printers. This is especially true for plots and graphs in the paper.
- Make sure that the output has been formatted for printing on LETTER (8.5" by 11") size paper.
- Make sure that symbols and labels used in the graphs are readable as printed, and not only with a 20x on-screen magnification.
- Try to limit the file size to less than 15 MB.
Now, I am all for having a consistent, and firm, formatting requirement for conference submissions. It's really unfair to authors that take pains to adhere to the guidelines when someone violates them by squeezing too much text into the paper. But isn't it time that we define a single standard for conference paper formatting that everyone uses?
Yes, I know there are various templates out there, but most of these are for the final proceedings, which can vary substantially from the submission format. Even worse, many of the "standard" templates floating around out there don't adhere to the submission guidelines anyway. What would help tremendously would be to have a canonical standard template (in various formats, e.g., LaTeX and Word) that everyone uses. Then it would be trivial to tell if someone had tweaked the formatting since their paper wouldn't look the same as the rest. This is the model used by EWSN 2010 (which required submissions to be in the Springer LNCS format) and it worked very well -- all of the submissions had consistent formatting.
A word on automatic format checkers. Both of the conferences we submitted to were supposed to be using an automated format checker that should have flagged the paper as violating the requirements when we submitted it. In both cases, this failed, and the program chairs (quite rightly!) rejected the paper once they discovered that the formatting was wrong. Unfortunately we were not careful enough and assumed that passing the automated check meant that we had done everything correctly. I like Geoff Voelker's Banal system, but it doesn't always work (mostly the fault of the underlying Ghostscript tool that it's based on). Even doing this kind of thing manually is a big pain -- Adobe Acrobat Pro lets you measure things like text blocks and font sizes, but it's a lot of manual effort.
Finally, as a TPC chair I have been on both sides of this, and I always hate rejecting papers due to formatting violations, especially when I know the authors have done good work. Dealing with formatting problems is a huge time sink when you're running a conference, and a standard format would save everyone -- authors, program chairs, reviewers, publication chairs -- a lot of trouble. I think it's time for the systems and networking community to simply define a single standard and get all conferences to use it.