A computer user interface includes a mechanism for graphically representing and displaying user-definable objects of multiple types. The object types that can be represented include data records, not limited to a particular kind of data, and agents. An agent processes information automatically on behalf of the user. Another mechanism allows a user to define objects, for example by using a template. These two mechanisms act together to allow each object to be displayed to the user and acted upon by the user in a uniform way regardless of type. For example, templates for defining objects allow a specification to be input by a user defining processing that can be performed by an agent.