What do you mean by type of drive ? USB vs Firewire you mean ? Ext3 is the default file system for most linux distros. Just plug in the drive, bring up qtparted or gparted, and click the buttons. Most external drives will come already formatted with fat32, which you can use just fine with linux, but it does have a 2 gig file size limit, which ext3 doesn't have.
What distro and desktop are you using ? You won't have to edit any other files if you are using KDE I know, and gnome should auto mount it for you too.