Disclosed is an object-oriented approach to storage and transmission of retrievable items in a client-server computer environment. Special processing modules manage retrieval and permanent storage, on client computers, of requested objects in a manner that minimizes unnecessary transmission and storage. The user enters a "subscription" in connection with items related to hierarchically inferior items. The subscription specifies the amount of information the user desires to download and store locally with respect to a specified hierarchical depth level. The invention also includes a pruning module for deleting, from local storage, items inconsistent with the subscription and which the user does not explicitly indicate a desire to store, and a facility for updating locally stored items upon re-establishment of communication with the server.