The standard way system wide configuration data is kept in unices is by various different config files under the /etc directory.

This mix of different text formats is unlikely to change given various pros and cons.

With the config4gnu config representation and manipulation framework in debian, however, the cons can be eliminated and new possibilities arise. Full flexibility and authority of /etc is maintainted. Flexibility is even increased; an API and several front ends (comand line, GUI, etc.) to all config files and formats are provided without hardcoded specifics.

Meta-config definitions do the trick.

Check out the webpage: http://freedesktop.org/Software/CFG

If you want to keep track of your configuration changes, either for yourself or because you are administering a Debian box with someone else, have a look at the following packages:

"Points of Integration config4gnu in debian":